Wow - lot of comments on the last post, maybe partly because of its Socratic nature? Think I'll try to keep that going.
Almost two decades ago, I temped at a mevatron factory. One day, one of the managers and I were having beers on our lunch break, and he said, "I just tell 'em I need it in a week when I really need it in two! They never have it done in a week, but it's always done when I need it!" He was really pleased with himself.
Years later, a producer friend of mine wrote a short paper on how to manage videogame development - he said basically the same thing. Since games are always late, tell your team it needs to be done before it really needs to be done.
I can't find the article right now, so I won't name names, but I read a quote from the CEO of a not-terribly-succesful-lately-publicly-traded game company, which said the same thing. Tell the team to get it done before you need it. They'll slip but they'll get it done on time. "Sounds crazy but it works," he said, or something like that.
(I later met a programmer from that same company - he crunched his ass off to meet a tight deadline and then, he claimed, the product sat in the warehouse until they were ready to release it. Sounded like he was just a little bitter; he quit working for them.)
There's a name for this management technique: Parkinsonian Scheduling. After Northcote Parkinson, author of *Parkinson's Law.* *Parkinson's Law*, by the way, is a pretty good read, and there's some very quotable stuff in there. Most people incorrectly think that Parkinson's Law is "work expands to fill the space allotted for it". That's not actually true - that's a postulate that Parkinson accepts as a given, which he then uses to go on to prove his actual Law - which is that hierarchy in an organization will indefinitely expand.
So calling it Parkinsonian Scheduling may be something of a misnomer. But there it is.
I have to admit, Parkinsonian Scheduling does seem to work. Just yesterday the clock in our hotel room was wrong, and instead of being half an hour late to a mother's day brunch we were half an hour early. When under the gun like that, you really find out what your priorities are, you work overtime if you have to, and then if you slip anyway, you feel relieved when you find out there was that extra hidden buffer in the schedule. The only time you lose is when people, like my acquaintance whose game sat in the warehouse, actually hit your unreasonable date and then feel betrayed. And by then they've already served their purpose. (In this unpredictable game development world, you never know if there's even going to be a second project, so I'm usually an advocate of always taking the short-term-gain for the long-term-loss.) Even acclaimed management books like *Critical Chain* endorse it.
On the other hand, IT'S JUST PLAIN LYING.
So now we come to the Socratic portion. What do you think?
A) The means justify the ends. Parkinsonian Scheduling works. And people lie. I'm telling my crew the game's due tomorrow.
B) Parkinsonian Scheduling is short-sighted. I want to retain my talent. And I wouldn't want to work for that kind of manager. And with software development, if you push people to hit a date they skimp on quality - they may hit your date but it will be a really buggy product.
C) I don't care if it works or not, lying is wrong.