Asking the Wrong Question
Is imposing “impossible deadlines” a Management Technique?
Yes, it's part of the management framework henceforth known as Epic Failure™. It's right up there with flogging a dead horse, deliberately planning a death-march, and telling people to "work harder, not smarter."
That doesn't mean it isn't practiced as a management technique. Many, many companies do exactly what you've described. However, you're asking the wrong question. The right question isn't whether it's a management technique or not, but it's whether it's an effective one.
How People Address Impossible Deadlines
When faced with impossible deadlines, some common things may happen. For example:
- People ignore ridiculous and arbitrary deadlines, and continue doing whatever they normally do.
- People try to meet unrealistic deadlines, burn out, and move on to other projects and/or companies.
- People speak up, get singled out as "not a team player," and shrink the collective IQ or skill set of the team when they get drummed off the project.
This isn't an exhaustive list; I'm sure you can think of others. The end result, though, is typically a failed project. The mere use of this management technique is often a "project smell" that a project is currently failing, or is just about to fail, so it's a useful signpost that intervention is urgently needed.
My Personal Response to Ridiculous Deadlines
When faced with the Epic Failure™ management technique, I have actually said the following to various people in my professional life:
I've given you my very best professional estimate. If you prefer to apply a different metric, just subtract your deadline from my projected delivery date; that will tell you approximately how late the project will be.
A few people have appreciated the refreshing honesty over the years, but most Epic Failure™ practitioners do not. There are certainly consequences to being so outspoken, but one of the positive consequences is that I haven't been on a single involuntary death march in the past twenty years. Your mileage will certainly vary.