New management research from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University shows that when deadlines are in place workers, tend to complete their tasks at the last minute, often leading to lower quality outcomes.
In “Deadlines, work flows, task sorting, and work quality,” Natarajan Balasubramanian, associate professor of management at the Whitman School of Management, and his co-authors, Jeongsik Lee (Drexel University) and Jagadeesh Sivadasan (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), examine the impact of deadlines using large-scale patent data. They find that patent applications tend to cluster around the end of the month and those month-end applications are, on average. more complex. What’s more, the work quality is lower for tasks completed at month-end.
“Our study is valuable because it examined work flows, task complexity and work quality across thousands of firms for several decades,” said Professor Balasubramanian. “We now have novel, large-scale evidence for the effect of deadlines on job-flows and have quantifiably demonstrated the negative effects deadlines can have on work quality.”
Professor Balasubramanian added that these findings suggest managers need to be vigilant about understanding the negative work quality effects of using deadlines, and should review to fully discern if the benefit of accelerating projects outweighs the possible negative effects on work quality.
“Further, to the extent that the use of deadlines leads to poorer-quality and ‘fuzzier’ patents, deadlines have broader implications for the process of technological innovation,” said Professor Balasubramanian.
The study is forthcoming in Management Science.