How (not) to miss a deadline
Deadlines are valuable, and deadlines are expensive.
Organized systems and societies need deadlines. It would be impossible to efficiently build a house if the subcontractors could deliver their goods or services whenever it were convenient for them. Movie studios and book publishers schedule their releases months in advance to allow distribution teams to plan their work. Software is dependent on subsystems that have to be in place before the entire program can work.
Along with the value that synchronized deliverables create, there are also real costs. Not simply the organizational cost of a missed deadline, but the significant damage to a reputation or brand that happens when a promise isn’t kept. And there’s a human cost–the stress and strain that comes from working to keep a promise that we might not have personally made, or that might be more difficult because someone else didn’t perform their part of the dance.
In the wide-open race for attention and commitments, the standards of deadlines have been wavering. For forty years, Saturday Night Live has gone on at 11:30. Not, as its creator says, because it’s ready, but because it’s 11:30. That’s the deal.
On Kickstarter, this sort of sacrosanct deadline is rare indeed. “This charger will ship in six weeks!” they say, when actually, it’s been more than a year with no shipment date in sight. Or with venture capitalists and other backers. “We’re going to beat the competition to market by three months.” Sometimes it feels like if the company doesn’t (Read more...)