I am an independent consultant who works on a project basis. Deadlines are relevant to me because that is how I schedule my work and (hopefully) keep a steady income flow. There is a lot of debate in Washington these days about deadlines on U.S. military presence in Iraq, and deadlines are getting a bad name.
Business 2.0 print edition ran an article by Jeffrey Pfeffer titled Why Deadlines Matter. The same article ran on CNN Money online as The High Price of Missed Deadlines. Pfeffer points out a number of situations where using deadlines gets things done. He talks about having encountered resistance to changes he recommended on the job, and after announcing his intention to leave, “I made more progress as a so-called lame-duck administrator than I had during my entire first year at the helm”.
Other instances where deadlines make a difference are:
- Creating a sense of urgency – His example was the pace of work at Apple after Steve jobs announced in January that the iPhone would be released in June.
- Convincing opponents in a negotiation that you’re really serious – Of course, this can become a game of brinksmanship, so be prepared to withdraw on the given date if that’s what you said you would do “if…”
If a deadline is absurdly impossible, people will stop taking you seriously, so make sure your deadlines are reasonable. On the other hand, everyone will feel good about succeeding in meeting a “push” deadline that was doable.