Why Do We Chase Deadlines?

A beautiful Why Do We Chase Deadlines?

I mean, do we have a death wish?

Don't answer that.

From a distance, many of our common business practices cast long shadows. Examining the lexicon, we find a wealth of apocalyptic and fatalistic metaphors, which empower the business-minded go-getter to make any number of professional, politically correct threats whilst giving his or her their "colleagues" a proper grin-fucking.

Business, of course, is quite Martian in origin. So many of our entrepreneurial efforts are battles with Nature, with pests, with weeds, with the elements, with disease, with aging, with our monstrous animal urges to touch and taste and sniff and fuck. At work we wage war on the competition, we congratulate our colleagues for "killing it this quarter", we nail down a "drop dead" date for the vital decision we can't seem to make, or we whinny about missing deadlines.

There is of course another end of the spectrum, lying flirtatiously out of reach in the distant land of neutered, ineffectual passive aggression. Here is where we get such gems as deliverables and actionable items. The possibilities are endless as we pass around ownership of data-driven product requirements and user-research-informed project roadmaps. But since no one actually knows what we are doing or why, we keep our heads down and occupy ourselves with the process. We're worth our weight in auto-generated email notifications, that's for sure. And now as we add heads (just the heads?) to our team, we need to distinguish our roles with more and different titles of apparent importance. At least that's what the Lead Senior Director of Product Program Managementalism, Twice Removed said at the last all-hands webinarpalooza.

Would you like a bowl of alphabet soup?

Yesterday a friend shared with me an open position at Facebook, a role entitled "DPM Manager". DPM being an unfamiliar TLA, I took the bait, and lo and behold, it turns out they are looking for a Design Product Manager Manager. Taxonomy of this caliber belongs in a crayon box, which might explain what a DPM does. (I still have little clue.)

An also-ran in my recent purview, let's look at OKR. This TLA elides an operator as it slides down the slippery slope into nonsenseville. Originally a formula succinctly put as Objective => Key Results, OKR asks us to remove ourselves from our goals, instead positing them as Objectives, then has us attempt to quantify the sublime as a measurable change in some condition or state. Nonsense like this is woven into the fabric (nay, it IS the fabric) of much of the PM realm of expertise charlatanism, where the P might represent any manner of picayune pomp and presumptuous pretense (or program, product, project, etc.)

🌆 Post meridian: when the PMs really shine 🌅

Jokes aside, why do we chase deadlines? Why would we plot roadmaps for our social good platforms? Why would we Gantt chart the features to be released in a new meal-sharing app?

Could it be that the backbone of the culture of the "modern" business world was ossified during wartime?

If we compare business language to business practices, embarking on one of those semiotic chicken-and-egg adventures (they co-create each other, btw) we are likely to observe that our colleagues, and, heaven forbid, our bosses, don't mean to imply that if we don't meet our set objectives we will die. But that sure is what they say.

How would we talk about work during peacetime?

That's a bit of a rhetorical question. We would of course speak with compassion, employing non-violent communication, and listening more than we speak. And we would probably talk about work less and less.

After all, if we weren't fighting so many wars‡, many of us would be out of a job. Which jobs do not trace back to one of the wars we are waging on nature or on each other?

‡ See also the War on Weeds, the War on Pests, the War on Aging, the War on Drugs, the War on Hunger, the Battle Against Global Warming, the War on Illiteracy, ad nauseum, ad infinitum; remember the War on Terrorism, and now, of course, the War on Viruses, the War on Death. Charles Eisenstein expounds on our warlike approach to nature and ourselves in his pioneering essay, The Coronation.

Easeness Practices: Tools and Methods of the Peaceful

This is certainly the topic of a longer piece for another day, but I'll briefly round up a few of the most promising methodologies, practices, systems, and such that promote good easeness.


The GIST Framework from Itamar Gilad is one of the most promising easeness tools for former PMs (Easeness has no managers or products, programs, or projects, after all) who would like to give their plans and aspirations a flowing, organic structure. It's one of those acronyms that makes you proud to know words good, plus the hierarchy is built into the spelling: Goals > Ideas > Steps > Tasks.


Relaxing into easeness after steeping in the stress of the business world may prove to be a challenge. So it may behoove us to practice deliberate rituals like circling when we gather to get easy. The Circle Way offers us concise guidelines.

Radical Honesty

I was recently reminded of the incisive value of etymology when I overheard someone saying that radical means "of the root". "Oh, like a radish," I sputtered.

Without approaching the thorny labyrinth of truth in the blizzard of self-forgetfulness we find ourselves trudging through, I will say that we need more honesty. And we want that honesty to spring up from the root of our being.

Dr. Blanton et al. have much to teach us about sharing our truth vulnerably and powerfully. An early exercise that has continued to enrich me for years has us watch our thoughts and speech, asking of each tidbit whether it is noticed or imagined.

Enough for now. I will return and grow this vein into a sturdy limb before long.


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