Faster is Slower – Managing Impossible Deadlines

Here is something for you to think about: Pushing for an outcome right now, when you haven’t considered all the inputs, will lead to either a very messy and costly solution or even one with no outputs or outcome at all!

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Most of us are familiar with Aesop’s fables and one in particular regarding the race between the Tortoise and the Hare. In short, during their race, the Hare falls asleep and the Tortoise plods on towards the finish line and crosses it before the hare realises what has happened.

Often, there is immense pressure to do things quickly. When we are at work, it would seem that it’s not enough to be aware of the looming and unrelenting deadlines. There also seems to be someone constantly reminding us of the need to drag ourselves kicking and screaming to meet these tight deadlines, as well.

So it all comes down to this. When we are hit with that almost impossible deadline, we need to decide one of two things:

  1. Meeting that target or deadline at all costs that includes stress, no hair and people not wanting to engage with us any more; or
  2. Phasing the target or deadline and living with the outcome of enjoying peace of mind.
Photo byΒ Vincent van ZalingeΒ onΒ Unsplash

When the pressure is on, it is not uncommon for us to become inefficient and ineffective. We start earlier, we finish later and we even watch our weekends disappear in order to meet that illusive target. We become tired, irratible and almost impossible to deal with. We become frazzled and even burn out.

The further problem with meeting a deadline at all costs is that there is no redundancy built into the solution or outcome. By this I mean , if a mistake occurs during production (even writing or perhaps construction), there is no time to correct the fault. The end product, in whatever form it takes, often with costly repurcussions, is released.

Of course there are a number of exceptions to this situation including the release of software that allows beta testing or patches as we go or new versions that are subsequently released. This in itself can be quite frustrating for the user (but seems to be accepted practice now). There is also the approach regarding the use of actuaries – analytical wizards who calculate the cost or risk of an uncertain event. Many businesses insure themselves against such risks. An example is when a car is recalled to replace a faulty component. This also introduces a personal risk and is frustrating because of what may have been casued by someone else’s error. You will either decide to have the faulty part replaced or not, and live with whatever the outcome may be.

Photo by Julius Tejeda on

With phasing the target, this means putting forward the outcome in more digestble or acceptable stages. This is also where the art of negotiation comes into the picture.

Often, the boss or the client is not sure regarding the key deliverables themselves. They know there is a target or end goal. However, the execution of achieving that outcome is very much up in the air.

In a competitive world, this is where the magic of the staged approach is valuable. Stage one might look something like delivering an outcome in a more basic form to meet the timeframe required. This will satisfy most requirements, both for the client and the user. As a result, we have then given ourselves time to build the more expansive outcomes in later stages (ideally we can set some further milestones or key timeframes at this point).

I am reminded of that saying “simple is best,” or get back to basics. Stage one allows us to get ahead of the game. We enter the market with no other competitors in sight (they are in effect asleep). Stage two builds on our strong position by adding more sophistication or aditional features. At this point our competition has woken up to what we are up to, but it is too late. Even if they flood the market with similar services or gadets, as long as we continue to innovate, we will then stay ahead of the game.

Case Study

Always remember to manage the expectations of others!

I have a client who was under immense pressure last year regarding a commitment it gave to its customers to involve them in the development of a customer engagement policy. However, due to one thing or another, the promise of such a policy did not eventuate. Now, this client does take its promises to their customers very seriously.

When asked for my input into this matter, I suggested that an interim engagement policy is developed by the client with a promise that the original commitment for customer involvement in the final version of the policy is undertaken in 6 to 12 months time.

The end result was my client was happy with my proposal and also asked me to develop the interim policy. Not only that, the customers were also happy with the amended approach to their involvement in the development of the final version of the engagement policy in due course. So we all got to take a deep breath and relax going forward!

So Slower is Faster 😊

17 Comments on “Faster is Slower – Managing Impossible Deadlines”

  1. Pingback: Blogging ‘Faster is Slower – Managing Impossible Deadlines’ – Link Below | Relationship Insights by Yernasia Quorelios

  2. Sean – I laughed very out-loudly at this sentence: “Meeting that target or deadline at all costs that includes stress, no hair and people not wanting to engage with us any more”. πŸ€£πŸ˜‚

    In the past this statement describes me to a T! I was always ‘never say never’ or,’ I can do it’! no matter how fast they wanted it done. (note: this why my hair is so thin so word of advice – listen to Sean so that you do not experience this in your 60s πŸ‘©β€πŸ¦²πŸ˜)

    In the present I have morphed into that turtle. I am most proud of my turtle-ness 🐒🐒🐒. I have wound down most of my creative work and I have learned to just say no to almost all jobs I was not inspired by, let alone rush jobs.

    Sean, I wish I had this post when I was in my 20s! Great advice here.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for the awesome feedback, Rita. I am glad you did get to laugh out loud re that sentence. Why did we do that? I think we were quite professional back then and I went grey very young! Yep, being the turtle is all the rage πŸ˜‚ If it’s not, it should be 🀣 Even today, I had someone pressing my buttons and I said “talk to the turtle 🐒” I have knocked back about two years of work myself in the last few months as it no longer fits into my grand plan. Hopefully, that won’t change anytime soon.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Well, I don’t have experience with business management, but I do feel that what you just said is very true with writing. I have to say when there’s a deadline, it is a horrible thing for the writing quality and my mind just couldn’t handle it. LOL. And the will to get things done fast just suck all the life out of the writing. I just can’t help it. Such a wonderful post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your feedback re the post. I’m glad you really liked it. Yes, what I have said is very applicable to writing. I have found it very useful for some of my reporting deadlines. And, it is a horrible when there is that clash between trying to write a good piece of work and meeting a deadline. I generally discard what I have written when this happens, have a really nice cup of tea and start again. It seems to work for me 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. For the first few months in my job as an accountant. There are certain moments that I needed to double up my pace to meet certain deadlines and that means overlooking certain datas that led to tracing errors which was such a struggle that I ended up repeating everything. But I guess when your job is repetitive just like mine, overtime you’ll learn to be fast and efficient. You can even do it in your sleep. πŸ˜…πŸ˜†

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can appreciate what you have shared here, Joanna. I had similar experiences early in my working career. Yes, you do get fast and efficient. Then you become the local expert, or subject matter expert, as we used to call them. People come to you for the answers 😎

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I like that expression, “phasing the target.” So often it feels like we have to rush, rush, rush, but it really is better to take the time to develop the quality of a project. The tortoise and the hare story is also a great metaphor to remember. I know when I try to force myself to scramble toward an unreasonable deadline, I end up very like the hare. I rush really fast at first and then the exhaustion catches up and I crash right when that deadline is just around the corner. Arriving in one piece with something to show for it is worth it, even if it takes longer than we anticipated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your appreciation and sharing your observations and experiences. We all have those crazy moments and run out of steam. One of the services I provide is training in local government meeting procedures and debating and advice during meetings. Often, I find myself suggesting that the debate is slowed down or suspended so that everyone has a chance to come to grips with what is going on. Often, this pause sees a much better outcome re decisions made.

      Liked by 1 person

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