First Impressions: Why Due Dates are the Enemy

Why Due Dates are Bad
Joe Burroughs

Joe Burroughs

Many people are frustrated by uncertainty and complexity in their jobs. I use Agile principles to provide clear and simple strategies so that you can win at work!

First impressions matter

Remember the old saying you never get a second chance to make a first impression? It’s true! First impressions are incredibly important in relationships, job interviews, and product delivery. If you threw up on a first date it would make a bad impression, in fact, it could ruin your chances of a second date. Likewise, if you release a product that has bugs or unfinished features you can ruin the chances of positive customer engagement.

Due dates are bad

Assigning a due date to the delivery of a product or service forces those working on it to either cut corners in development and testing or to leave out critical features altogether. Neither of these is a positive outcome. Cutting corners in development may mean the design isn’t as efficient as possible and the user experience may include long waits or complex navigation. Cutting corners in testing may mean the product doesn’t perform as expected across all channels or mediums. Then the customer has to figure out how, when, and on what device the product works and doesn’t work. Simply put, cutting corners leads to dissatisfied customers. Leaving out critical features reduces the usefulness of the product and may render it useless in the eyes of your customers.

"But without Due Dates,
Nothing would
EVER Get Done!"

Minimum Marketable Release (MMR)

There is a reasonable fear among those not yet used to Agile product delivery that if they don’t assign due dates to everything then the work simply will not get done. It is easy to understand this especially when it comes from someone with a more traditional project management background. The sure for this is very simple. Introducing the concept of a Minimum Marketable Release (MMR), basically the minimum set of features the product team is comfortable releasing to the market. Once this baseline is established and agreed to the development team(s) have their goal line firmly in place. Once they agree that this minimum set of features is completed and tested it is released. Improvements and added functionality can still be developed and implemented going forward but the product is now in production earning a return on investment.

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Who decides what the MMR includes?

The features included in the Minimum Marketable Release are agreed to by the product team, marketing team, and the development team during feature refinement. This enables a meaningful conversation between the development team and the business stakeholders with a clear goal and set of criteria in mind: Determining the MMR and refining the features that enable its delivery. 

This provides a unity of direction and agreement by all parties at the outset replacing the need for due dates and timelines. It ensures the product will be delivered as soon as the features are available without risking releasing poor quality products.

Weaning your leaders off of Due Dates

In addition to creating some training materials around Minimum Marketable Releases, you will also need to provide a comprehensive and compelling campaign to end the use of due dates. There are a number of ways to do this, but statistics are very helpful, here are a few you can use:

  • Fewer than 30% of all projects were successfully completed on time and on budget over the past year. (Source: Standish Group) 
  • 70 percent of projects fail. (Source: 4 PM)
  • Corporations identified “capturing time/costs against projects” as their biggest project management challenge. (Source: The Access Group)
  • 75% of IT executives believe their projects are “doomed from the start.” (Source: Geneca)

Make a good 1st impression instead of Due Dates

If your organization delivers good quality products and services it will succeed. If it delivers poor quality products and services quickly it will fail quickly. This is the power of the 1st impression and a reputation for quality. Your customers don’t know your due dates anyway! But they absolutely know the quality and functionality of the products and services you are delivering.


Joe Burroughs

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