Project Management

The Hidden Costs of Deadlines

Gil Broza specializes in increasing organizational agility and team performance with minimal risk and thrashing. Dozens of companies seeking transformations, makeovers or improvements have relied on his pragmatic, modern and respectful support for customizing agile in their contexts. His book "The Agile Mind-Set" helps practitioners go beyond process and adopt a true agile approach to work. His book "The Human Side of Agile" is a practical book on leading agile teams to greatness. These days, several of the world's largest organizations are having him train hundreds of their managers in technology and business (up to VP level) on practical agile leadership. Get Gil's popular 20-session mini-program "Something Happened on the Way to Agile" free at

Deadlines seem to be a way of life for managers and product owners. But all too often, they create unintended consequences.

We start paying attention to dates and deadlines from a young age. My kids receive homework assignments with due dates attached. My wife and I have deadlines of our own, such as applying to high school for our kids, and filing taxes. At work, deadlines are everywhere; almost every undertaking has some date attached to it by which it ought to be completed, approved and delivered.

Have you ever wondered why we do that? And why dates always seem to matter as much as they do? Why they are so ubiquitous, that the word “deadline” is no longer reserved only for really important dates?

Some Deadlines Are Real
Indeed, certain deliverables matter only within some time window. Later than that, they are no longer needed or justified, or they negatively affect the recipient. For instance:

  • Every year, tax software makers must upgrade their products in time reflect tax law changes.
  • Game makers may want new product offerings to be ready for purchase before Christmas.
  • Organizations that issue requests for proposals may allow vendors a few weeks to respond; after a certain date, these organizations make their choice.

In some cases, the time window is exactly one day long. The work that goes into setting up elections, marathons and trade …

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If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant's life, she will choose to save the infant's life without even considering if there is a man on base.

- Dave Barry