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Nov 09

Deadline

Are we prisoners of our own projects? We haven’t done anything wrong, we work hard to deliver great software. We try hard to add business value on everything we do and we try to work together as optimal as possible. But there is always that deadline that in most cases was devised by someone who hasn’t got the slightest clue about the amount of time or complexity it takes to deliver.  We have to reach that deadline en often, if not always, we surpass that deadline. For as far as I know we don’t get shot, but often there are people that are not happy when we pass it. In most cases these are the people that thought up this deadline in the first place. But it can be worse, it can also be the people who got there deadline from people above them. In most cases a deadline is fictional. The 31st of December or September 1st. Or because someone needs to go on a holiday and wants it all before he or she leaves. And it can be a marketing campaign already set before realizing that there was also need for some sort of software to be delivered, trust me, I have seen it happen. The people who need to reach the deadline often have no say in the matter, which is a pity because they are the people who in the first place could have told that it was an impossible goal. Without any form of trial we become prisoners of the system.

We work with models like Scrum or Kanban and we can deliver in a continues integrations. After certain time, amounts of software can be deployed. Often this is delivered in small badges that can add to a better performing product. An iterative way of working does not know a real big deadline. But this doesn’t mean that there can’t be any certainties. There must be a goal or an end to it, a final marker if you will. With agile models we work on something that has value, something that has a meaning and often reached by taking small steps. Deadlines are often the end of a waterfall way of working. It has a beginning and an ending. But the end is most of the time, set. The road to reach it is uncertain and with obstacles. But the deadline is set in stone.

Working agile has become more popular. Large companies adopt it as the new way of working; some even go so far as to change everything. Flexwork environments are created and the new way of working is brought in association with agile, although it has nothing in common. But deadlines stay as they are. Contracts are still written up as usual an become the ammunition that can be loaded when the end is near. The implementation of scrum or kanban isn’t very hard. The rules are simple and often companies think that it is done when they do so. The wall is replaced with a nice green lawn without fences. Here and there a landmine, but they are traced and destroyed. But the line is still there and it is so important that we remove it. The guard has to be removed from the walls. And the live rounds need to be confiscated.

It is fun to work with metaphors because it gives a clear image. A deadline is something that raises restrictions. A border threat of some kind. It is a pressure that nobody needs. The idea that a deadline is a guarantee that everything is delivered nice and beautiful is a ferry tail. It is one of the fake certainties. It is the guaranteed incremental death-march song. Delivering value is important and as long as this is not the highest priority the prison will remain. And the line is still there threatning everyone with a loaded gun who dares to pass it

The term deadline originated from prison camps during war, and referred to a physical line or boundary. Guards would shoot any prisoner who crossed the deadline.

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