This is gonna be a bit of a hard to answer question with there being too many variables.

I'm a worker. And i have missed plenty of deadlines.

I have come to the personal opinion that a missed deadline is always the fault of poor management. This is of course not entirely true but in most cases is seems the management overscoped the project and/or made a silly deadline.

Note: i think it's worth mentioning that i have only ever worked in China!

Real life example of older workspace: (You can skip the the last paragraph, I'm just venting)

I was asked create a program for printing data to paper, it should be configurable and easy. I talked to him about different ways to do this, and we agreed on a WYSIWYG solution resembling Word. I sat down for a few days a created a complete project spec and specified: Beta after 3 months and an extra 2 months for test and patch. (I'd like to give 1 month but that has proven insufficient in the past, with changes and whatnot) Totaling 5 months. I gave him the document, he took the paper, i went away and after a few minutes he mailed me "OK" for everything (He mentioned no specifics), and i have 1 month to finish it. (I assume he skimmed it and trashed it) After 6 months the project wasn't even finished seeing as he kept coming to me with project changes.

Looking back i see many cases where this happened. Overscope, changes or impossible deadlines. I did consider that perhaps i got it backwards. That 1 month means i need to thin out the project in order to fit that time-frame. But this was not communicated. I've seen my coworkers start on projects that from the onset has overtime included. So i have fallen to the understanding that project managers can't manage projects. If i work 8 hours a day for the entire period (not 9gag!) then a missed deadline is not my problem. And as such, I've grown to ignore deadlines altogether cause it's the responsibility of the manager that the deadline and project spec matches.

Ok. So i do not wish to ask whether or i was wrong or not is this example. (You're welcome to talk about it) But i would rather like to know, what are the symptoms of poor management

And with the authority game and my competence at stake. What can i do as a worker when presented with a "Death march".

  • You have to keep in mind that clients (and that can include management) don't know what they want to have until they see something that almost but not quite fits the bill. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 12:22
  • Welcome to classic project management! See the "origin" paper: Managing the Development of Large Software Systems Also see The Project Management Triangle minimizing concern for quality and completely ignoring producing value. Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 13:26
  • You can only work to an agreed upon schedule, feature set and team size. If they've reduced the schedule but not specified the feature set reduction, then you're now in a no-man's land in terms of expectations. What you should have done (this is potentially not localised to your culture) is immediately and clearly communicated that you need to know what work is meant to fit into this month. Now you're 6 months in, a month over your estimate (which sounded pretty low) and unless you've kept track of all the changes and communicated their impact as they came in, you may be seen to be at fault.
    – Rob Grant
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 13:35
  • So have you missed the deadlines that you committed to (been pressured to commit)? Or they missed their deadlines?
    – Vlad
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:27
  • @Vlad i don't understand your question?
    – CyberFox
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 3:47

3 Answers 3


Your story suggests three issues you are facing: 1) project management maturity, 2) an understanding of schedule variability, and 3) human performance factors and biases.

You describe a work environment that has very little project management processes and capability well defined. You describe a lack of planning processes, a lack of risk management processes, a lack of change management processes, and a lack of communications, and your title shows that your organization is not defining accountability and responsibility. I am not sure your organization would know the difference between the two. This is quite a large topic so I'll leave this at: start a PM 101 and go from there.

Your second issue is around schedule variability. Work is always variable--from the most simplest of tasks to the most complex, if you were to perform the task several hundred times, you would produce quite a range of results by way of total duration and total cost. You have both aleatory and epistemic variables that cause the range of results and you can only mitigate the latter type. So your estimates should be provided in this range. Instead of "5 months," you would provide a more appropriate estimate of 3 months to 8 months, most likely 5--or whatever it really is as I just made these numbers up. So when you understand your estimated range, you can escalate the risk to your stakeholders when the targets come in at the aggressive side of your curve. With proper processes in place--see #1--that risk would be captured and communicated out and you can continue your work as normal.

The third problem is human performance and biases. As PMs, we deal with estimates coming in from the team that has bias attached to it. Sometimes it is optimistic, others pessimistic. Other types of biases are at play, too, such as anchoring, recency, primacy, etc. PMs have to negotiate this in order to arrive at an aggressive, competitive, but achievable target within an estimated range while dealing with other business pressures about which you may have no idea.

Also, regarding performance, we have a tendency to procrastinate. Two phenomena we cope with are Student Syndrome and Parkinson's Law. Both of these are costly and inconsistent with a competitive environment. So many times putting a challenge on the team, bringing in targets, causes those targets to be achieved WITHOUT compromise to quality. Of course, doing this too much can wreak havoc, so it is a tool you need to smartly use.

So to answer your question, the lack of PM processes your OP suggests would be an indicator of poor management; however, aggressive targets may not be for the reasons I indicated above.

  • Great answer. my 2 cents : could you add some suggestions for the poster, who seeks advice for his situation where regular business and project management practices are probably not followed? Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 16:35
  • Elaborate answer. Good points. I would like to add another question. At whatever time in future i move to next company how would i determine whether or not they are doing proper project management. My current checklist is just. "Project scope precision", "amount of project changes" and "handling of failure".
    – CyberFox
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 1:01
  • 2
    @CyberFox Great question! However, please post this as a separate new question. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 1:11
  • 1
    + 1, very good answer. I would add another bias : planning fallacy Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 5:07

"Fault" is a way of avoiding solving the problem. "Who is responsible/who is at fault" is usually an impediment to actually solving the problem.

  • What action do we need to take to make this right?
  • What action do we need to take to prevent this from happening again?

When the fire department shows up to put out the burning house, they rescue the potential victims and put out the fire first. Solve the problem. Then if you have the luxury of time and resources worry about who to blame. Or else just go get a drink.

  • 1
    Agreed. But sadly i find management eager to point fingers. I just wanna do my job. Solve problems
    – CyberFox
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 3:48

In order to meet deadlines, you should be proactive first. Don't wait for the last day.Finish your task before 3 days of the deadline. Moreover, try to adopt automation wherever you can. For example, use automation tools. I don't know what exactly is your job.But for meeting deadlines TaskQue is helpful. You can find here how it is.

  • Try the same when the manager compresses a 5 month project into a 1 month deadline. It might be possible. But only with 12+ hours overtime everyday. I've found the problem is that managers assume that we'll do that.
    – CyberFox
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 3:51

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