DEADLINES: A Mindset Issue



- Douglas Adams

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary Deadline is defined as “a date or time before which something must be done”.  While this is the dictionary definition, our company culture has made a slight but important edit to the interpretation of the definition.  We have swapped the word “by” for “before”. 

Webster’s definition:  “a date or time before which something must be done.”  

A typical company definition: “a date or time by which something must be done.”

The impact of this change in definition has had a very negative impact.  Instead of getting things done well in advance of deadlines, we have created a fire drill focused culture with last minute heroics required to meet deadlines.

We have to break the pattern and return to the true definition of a deadline.  The deadline represents the last possible time or date to get something accomplished.  Do yourself and your peers a favor and make it a practice to plan ahead and get your work done as far in advance of a deadline as possible.  Procrastinating and waiting until the last minute has many negative consequences and slows down progress for our entire business.

Take a typical situation where an employee waits until the last possible day to deliver an important report.  The employees logs onto his computer on the due date only to find that the server is down for maintenance.  The impact is that the employee misses the deadline.  This creates a domino effect because his manager doesn’t get the report on time leading the manager to be late in reviewing the report.  Ultimately, the one employee’s mistake of waiting until the last minute has negative consequences for many other people in addition to him.

The image of a chain is a great visual of the interdependences created within an organization.  When the chain fails the link does not receive the blame, rather the entire chain is blamed.  Being proactive and getting things done ahead of schedule sends a positive message and allows the organization to account for unforeseen issues.

So the next time you are given an assignment, be smart about determining when you will get it done before rather than by.