Today I learned – Deadlines in IT projects

In my efforts to understand postmodernism better I got back to reading Beginning Postmodernism by Tim Woods.

I did not start my reading list for Part 3 just yet but since my tutor suggested to start with Baudrillard first I immediately noticed when Woods referenced him as something I should take in with more depth.

In the book there is a comment:

…Baudrillard’s position offers reality which is wholly constructed by signs and images with no outside referent, and Norris’s position argues that a knowledge of the real world which lies outside the discourses used to describe it is possible.

Christopher Norris and Jean Baudrillard were on opposed sides as to where reality for an individual is rooted: in the material or in the constructed.

This reminds me of a long going discussion in my company. We work on building a software product and basically define our own scope and deadlines for the versions we publish to the public i.e. our customers.

Just to give this some context by contrary examples: some companies work in a way that the customer is the one giving out the deadline and the software vendor makes due and does their best to meet the deadline.

Either way – deadlines are stressful. For many reasons. When it is externally given it means that if you miss it you might not get payed or you will be penalised somehow. When they are constructed by the vendor’s team, missing it means you might disappoint your team or get into discussions why we did not plan our work properly. Both situations can harm the reputation of the individual or the company – so it is quite understandable that everyone feels stressed by them.

Deadlines are a constructed fact. In the natural world they have no meaning. Rocks, plants, animals do not rush to do things to meet a specific sunset or sunrise. They are wired to follow their own biological impulses. But for humans they mean a lot more – it can mean a difference between great and really bad living conditions. If you for example do not pay your bills on time because you missed a deadline and your customer did not pay you for your work – a constructed reality just hit your biological reality like a storming elephant in a glass shop.

Many times in the last year I was involved in discussions about these deadlines and why we have them. Mostly because I was often playing the role of the project manager and was forcing some people outside of their comfort zone by asking for information about when will they be done and assessed with them how will their individual progress affect the overall project timeline. This caused a conflict with some individuals because their “fighting back” the stress led them to start a philosophical discussion about why we have deadlines. I understand that sometimes it is easier to talk than to work – but it bugged me always from a critical stand point why were we not being able to find a consensus.

Now that I am learning more about “professional arguing” i.e. criticism and philosophy I realised something. The two opposing sides in my company – ones that were *for* deadlines and ones that were *against* deadlines were living in the same physical reality. I.e. if we fail as a team and a company we will stop getting payed and loose our material security. But we were living in different constructed realities.

The ones *for* deadlines have constructed the reality that if an end date for a project is published that means we are agreeing and constructing a situation where we all are working in the same time frame. We need to figure out a frequency or rhythm of work where we all agree to match our physical realities to it (using our brains in a certain activity in the same period of sunsets and sunrises). We can adjust *what* we manage to produce to a fixed *when* are we going to produce it.

The ones *against* deadlines have constructed a reality that the fact when we produce something is not as relevant as to *what* we are producing. In their mind we have all agreed that we are going to produce high quality software. We should all figure out how to aim and converge into a version of software that we are all happy about and we believe in doing. We need to figure out a mindset and state of positive energy in which we can match our physical realities to it (finding a space where everyone can use their voice to express their current state of physical, emotional and intellectual state).

Even though I do realise the difference of our constructed realities that were in conflict – I still think we need deadlines to finish projects because without them everyone would work in their own pace individually. Without any constructed facts about what are the points where individuals meet and join the same reality – society, companies, teams…would not exist.

 

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