Artificial Deadlines or Deadline Bias

Artificial deadlines tempt decision makers to look for satisficing rather than optimizing decisions. What decision can I make that satisfies your need for a decision with my need for acceptable consequences? Deadline bias+ also hurts the quality of evidence, for example through Conference Bias+. It becomes harder for me to see evidence that calls for a stop decision, or evidence that calls for more time. Artificial deadlines destroy the willing assent of all participants to the decision and many times leaves you worse off than having just sat on your hands.

A form of Deadline Bias is Contrived Urgency: forcing decisions on R&D prototypes before their time, pushing up schedules on one team to make up for lack of contingency planning on another team, or jumping in to personally manage a team to make up for their perceived lack of progress.

The trophy wife.

Dr. Naughty achieved a position of authority in a small pharmaceutical company and celebrated by dumping his wife of 25 years. He knew it would be expensive but with any luck his income potential was going to rise substantially over the next few years more than offsetting the divorce settlement. It was time for a new bride.

Lydia was gorgeous. She was 30 years old, came from a third world country and was much more compliant than the ex. She really knew how to shake and bake in the hammock. Thank you Pfizer for Viagra™.

Lydia was also, as it turns out, shrewd. She knew a sugar daddy when she saw one and jumped at the chance to win half of a very substantial income. Besides, with all that spare cash she could afford to hire a trim, muscular gardener ‘strictly for appearances.’

Dr. Naughty was distraught. Expenses at home were mounting. It was clear if he couldn’t keep up with his wife’s increasingly expensive tastes then he risked losing an outlet for his drug induced virility. ‘We need to push that new compound into Phase I trials. My bonus depends on it and my wife has already spent the bonus.’ It was time to take back control of the decision-making process.

Decisions and request for decisions are based on trust. If I don’t trust the decision maker to abide by the rules then I build more slack into my schedule to cover the eventuality of a contrived urgency. If managers do not trust researchers then teams are forced to eliminate perfectly legitimate schedule slack time and are punished for missing deadlines without the slack. Teams become shrewder at hiding slack time. They hedge in planning, or diminish the importance of legitimate concerns or unanswered questions. Researchers know where to take shortcuts that won’t appear as product defects for several years. As a manager you no longer know if the schedule represents anything close to reality. You ‘punt’ assuming the team has built too much slack into the schedule after you have arbitrarily forced them to push up the schedule. The game escalates until all the players are dysfunctional.


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