Friends or Enemies: What are Deadlines in Management?

Deadlines mean and sound ominous for everyone, especially people who are involved in management processes. Deadlines may easily become impossibly heavy burdens that demoralize great teams.

It’s very important for product managers as well to understand the most important properties of deadlines so that they’re more capable of working with deadlines and to negotiate them with stakeholders.

We’ve found a great text, dedicated to the problem of deadline management, that was published on Foldingburritos. Here we propose the free interpretation of this article.

A deadline is an arbitrary moment in time where a given amount of work must be done. Usually, it is a moment set by an external source to the work being done: a date from a stakeholder, an event we’re servicing, the end of the sprint, the start of the year, etc.

It’s a moment in time. It can be either a point in time or some fuzzier time period.

The deadline defines an amount of work to be done. This is one of the key attributes in management. The question is simple in principle: is it possible to produce this amount of work until the given date? Can we do this?

How to turn deadlines into a positive influence?

Keeping them achievable is the key to turning deadlines into a positive influence.

How to manage deadlines?

If you nail this balance, these dates will exert a powerful focusing and motivating influence that keeps everyone’s mind on the goal. Our natural tendency to be distracted and to endlessly perfect what we’re working on gets tamed. We embrace the timing constraints and go for it. When we finally achieve the goal and actually ship, everyone involved feels a major emotional reward.

Dates, the scope and everything around the decision-making process can easily become demoralizing issues that derail the team. It’s rather important to properly account for all of this.

There are some basic questions that can help you think about and negotiate deadlines, keeping them attainable and a positive influence for you and your team. Here they are:

  1. How narrow is the timeframe?
  2. How arbitrary is the deadline?
  3. How well defined is the scope?
  4. Is the scope achievable in the given timeframe?
  5. How reasonable are the stakeholders imposing the deadline?
  6. Could the scope be partially achieved and still hit its main goals?
  7. Is the team onboard with the timeframe and scope?

Having answered these questions thoroughly, you’ll be able to easily manage deadlines and keep them attainable.

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