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The Importance of Deadlines

 Feb 4, 2009  |   Filed under: Business, Software Development  |   Tags: Agile, Productivity, Theory

Usually the word deadline sends a chill down everyone’s spine. Maybe this is because it contains the word dead or maybe we all just have bad memories from deadlines gone south.

However deadlines are essential to being productive both as a business and as an individual. The problem is that we usually set deadlines to far apart. Yes, we usually have too few deadlines.

When I was studying informatics the deadline was usually the day of the exam. This meant you didn't actually have to learn anything until that day. Thus there was always a feeling that we had plenty of time to learn... ...until there was only one or two days left. Almost everyone I knew studied like mad the last days before the exam to cram a 500 page text book into our heads.

Usually this worked to solve the problem, i.e. pass the exam, but the quality of the knowledge was really bad. The net result was that a few days later most of what we learnt, those last days right before the exam, was gone.

If we instead had many small exams spread out over time, more deadlines, we would have been forced to study at a sustainable pace giving our knowledge better quality.

Agile practices understand and embrace this. We have iteration "deadlines" every 1-4 weeks. We also use daily stand-ups and burn down tracking to set implicit deadlines within the team, each and every day!

This leads to a sustainable work pace and a higher quality of the end product. Think of that the next time you have a looming deadline. Maybe it isn't the deadline that's the problem maybe it's that you had too few deadlines along the way.