Deadlines Shouldn't Mean Dead On The Line

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Were it not for the last minute, nothing will ever get done. That's a very popular saying for both the academe and the corporate world. It's practically the most important invention of mankind next to creating fire. Matter of fact, you think fire would ever have been discovered were it not for some caveman manager pressuring the release of the beta? I bet some wise guy in marketing thought the then-new product "fire" can be marketed as that will forever revolutionize how people protest during SONAs. The project got finished at the last minute, but the true purpose won't be achieved until Erap's presidency thousands of years later. The caveman manager invented the last minute. Because last minutes exist, deadlines have to exist too.

It's understandable. If something has a start, it has to have a solid finish. Ask any porn director. Without the proper ending, things will just falter. I mean, look at the movie Clash of The Titans. That was just wrong. A two minute boss fight in a two hour action movie? REALLY?! But I digress.

The long and short of this tirade is that deadlines are important. There's a sense of drama in beating the deadline. Look at how the US congress passed the debt plan at the last minute a few weeks ago. Okay, maybe that was a bad example. Deadlines ensure that people know when things should be done. Otherwise, God help the cooks.

Be it as it may, deadlines should never be the endall of things. Every deadline should have a reason, and in my industry, projects falter the moment those reasons become unreasonable, or worse, forgotten.

In the world of IT, a product release, a project completion is very important. However, there are many things much more important than that. Product stability for one, and sustained effort of the producing team for another. Any reason behind a deadline should have considered both, and in the event that it acts to the detriment of either, that it should have a more important reason for going against any of the two.

Think about it. What's the point of releasing on time if the product is broken? What was that? Sorry, my hearing was blunted by Windows ME screaming at the back of my room of painful memories. What's also the point of releasing on time if the team that produces it, and will have to subsequently work on it in the future again simply burns out? I've seen teams lose swaths of their people because of crunch time burnout. It's never a pretty sight. Is a deadline worth that?

It's a sad fact that even though much of what I'm saying is common sense but things are all to easily lost in the chaos of day-to-day activities. An organization that has multiple levels of management and interworking architecture amplifies this problem. Sometimes, the reason for the deadline somewhat gets lost in between the layers of communication, and things boil down to the reason "because boss said so. are you going to go against boss?" Sure, fear of upper management is understandable. They're the ones handing out the moolah every pay day, afterall. But what's more important is the love of one's work, and consideration of everybody who has a stake in the project. This includes the clients, and those that labor to complete it.

A deadline should always be in everybody's minds when working on a project, but it should never be considered an unmoving notch that will either be reached or breached. It should be a guiding measure that can be moved if the situation calls for it.

And it should never come at an expense greater than what it can gain.

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