Sunday, July 24, 2011

Deadline: Friend or foe?

Deadlines are a double-edged sword.

Without deadlines there would be no pressure to get a project finished. Projects without deadlines can continue forever, as people continuously add features and try perfect the product.

More seriously, work tends to fill up all available time. So, if there is no deadline - or a very generous deadline, all the available time will be used up; and the project will still have trouble getting to a finished state.

On the other hand, deadlines create pressure.
  • Some people don't work well under pressure, and their work would be better if there was no deadline, or a very far-off deadline.
  • Deadlines cause people to take shortcuts, in order to meet the deadline. This could be a a pity, if the deadline is fictitious; it simply means that the project will need a follow-up project to clean up from the mess caused by the deadline.
When working in continuous-release mode, deadlines can be ignored. Whatever is ready by the release will be shipped; whatever is not ready will wait for the next (soon to be) release. However, a Master Schedule with best-case guesses is still a good idea, if nothing else so that you have a list of what needs to be done in which order, and to track how far you are from completing the project.

This concept of projects without a deadline will have the side affect of dividing the team in 2:
  1. Those who continue to work fast, and always have their part of the project ready as expected. When they miss a self-imposed deadline, they will try catch up the lost time, or apologize.
  2. Those who take advantage of the freedom, and see no reason to speed up.
It's obvious which half of the team you will want to replace, sooner rather than later.

- Danny

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