They say, ‘If it wasn’t for deadlines, nothing would get done’. It is true. Deadlines give meaning to a task, along with a reason and a goal or destination. Some people may hate deadlines because of the struggle associated with successfully reaching the goal, that is, delivering the task on time. Others may actually seek deadlines as they believe they help them work better. The time constraint helps in completing the assigned task successfully in many ways, ultimately giving a boost to overall productivity.
Benefits of deadlines
“The presence of a deadline naturally instils a sense of commitment towards achieving the ultimate objective,” believes Pradyumna Pandey, head-HR, manufacturing, Hero Motocorp. In the rapidly- evolving corporate world, the presence of deadlines serves as a guiding force, providing direction and structure to help navigate complex tasks and responsibilities. In the absence of deadlines, sometimes efficiency may wane.
Speaking from her own experience, Uma Rao, CHRO, Granules India, says, “Deadlines impact people in a very meaningful way. They serve as motivators that drive people to accomplish goals, whether independently or as part of a team.” In team settings, deadlines often foster a spirit of cooperation and positive teamwork aimed at achieving set targets. These time constraints create a strong aspiration to succeed, even when tackling intricate tasks.
“The presence of a deadline naturally instils a sense of commitment towards achieving the ultimate objective.”
Pradyumna Pandey, head-HR, manufacturing, Hero Motocorp
With deadlines in place, people have a plan to work systematically. “Having a deadline is always good as it provides a clear roadmap for accomplishing tasks,” believes Manish Majumdar, head-HR, EMS, Centum Electronics.
Pandey concurs, “It doesn’t merely emphasise the planning abilities, but also brings people’s execution skills to the forefront. Each successful adherence to a deadline can be likened to honing one’s skills, much like sharpening an axe.” The timely accomplishment of set targets also contributes to refining an individual’s competence and expertise.
Deadlines bring urgency to the work, which also helps people to stretch themselves and think more creatively. “A sense of urgency pushes people to go beyond the ordinary to achieve the objective. It promotes lateral thinking and creativity. It makes members walk the extra mile to meet the project plans. It also heightens their sense of responsibility to contribute,” asserts Rao.
“A sense of urgency pushes people to go beyond the ordinary to achieve the objective. It promotes lateral thinking and creativity. It makes members walk the extra mile to meet the project plans. It also heightens their sense of responsibility to contribute.”
Uma Rao, CHRO, Granules India
She further adds, “When there are no deadlines, people still work but there are chances that focus gets dissipated, some other priority takes the upper hand, or there is a sense of ennui at times. This can impact the quality of work.”
Another advantage of having deadlines is that it forces people to prioritise vital work. “When deadlines are introduced, people get to distinguishing between what is necessary and what isn’t, leading to a more focused approach on important objectives,” enunciates Pandey.
Deadlines, however, are not all about advantages. There are disadvantages too.
Drawbacks of deadlines
Essentially, utilising deadlines to enhance productivity involves a strategic approach. Deadlines can serve as a mechanism that not only shapes a positive mindset and behaviour. However, it also requires effective communication to those involved in delivering those deadlines.
“Individuals who are affected by and responsible for meeting these deadlines should be provided with clear and rational explanations regarding the urgency of the task. It’s crucial for them to understand why these deadlines hold significance and why they demand immediate attention,” advises Pandey.
Setting unrealistic deadlines should be avoided. Majumdar warns that ”In cases where uncertainties, ambiguities, or unknown variables are present, setting a strict deadline may not be feasible.” He gives the example of a case involving pioneering research or product development. Setting a deadline in such a situation is possible, but the intricate web of unknown factors and dependencies makes adhering to it a challenge. Therefore, he rightly says, “In complex endeavours, excessive pressure, particularly on creative individuals, can lead to delays rather than accelerated progress.”
“In cases where uncertainties, ambiguities, or unknown variables are present, setting a strict deadline may not be feasible.”
Manish Majumdar, head-HR, EMS, Centum Electronics
Transparency is another crucial factor when it comes to establishing and communicating deadlines. While transparency encourages individuals to have a structured approach to work adhering to deadlines, lack of it can lead to negative outcomes. “If individuals perceive a deadline as being insincere, they may lose their sense of concern towards it. Therefore, the impact of deadlines on productivity is positive only when they are approached with transparency,” points out Pandey.
He further adds, “It may be beneficial to include relevant parties in the process of determining and working towards deadlines. Involving them in the finalisation of deadlines can be a constructive approach.”
However, all the leaders agree that there are certain factors beyond one’s control. External circumstances can always impede the completion of tasks within the stipulated timeframe. In such cases, there’s an opportunity to derive lessons from mistakes and instances that served as a hurdle.
“This process of reflection allows for an understanding of why a particular deadline wasn’t met. This approach also aligns with the notion that engaged and motivated employees operate within an environment that fosters their enthusiasm. Such an environment plays a pivotal role, as employees perform optimally when they are genuinely absorbed and motivated to achieve beyond expectations,” observes Pandey.