Improve Efficiency with Firm Deadlines


“My first few days on the job,” explained Verdi, “I completed all of my tasks by early afternoon.  I’m not one to just sit idle so I started thinking of ways to add value to my job.  My supervisor liked what I was doing.”

Verdi added that after several weeks, although her tasks were the same, she struggled to get everything done.

I once asked a manager, who had a reputation for bringing design projects in on time, how he did it.  He replied, “I give the design teams a reasonable deadline and then I take the projects away from them.”  He added that–perhaps with intended exaggeration–left to their own devices, the engineers would keep sprouting ideas and never complete their assignments.

In 1955, British historian C Northcote Parkinson made the observation that (later identified as Parkinson’s Law), “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

Of course, a project that may reasonably take six to eight weeks could not be completed in one day.  But a deadline of eight weeks may see a team scramble toward the zero hour and possibly ask for an extension.  A six-week target date would likely see the same result and save two weeks.

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