Is there a name, a study, a blog post about the management failure to give clear priorities and objectives. I experience this every day. My boss gives me long term deadline that I discuss with him. We agree this. It is correct deadlines. Then during development he comes with many other new super urgents request that interfere with main development.

At the end I'm late on all my deliverables. I canot reach my deadlines.

  • There isn’t really a single word for that. As written, your post looks more like a rant than a clearly answerable question. What is your role? Other than expressing your (probably justified) frustration, what aspect of this are you hoping to resolve? – Todd A. Jacobs Aug 22 '19 at 17:48

Disclaimer: This comes from my experience on the financial sector. It may or may not be applied to other areas, as some expressions are very common on specific industries but not used in others.

Fire-fighting management.

As described by this hbr.org article, firefighting is the working "model" where

Managers and engineers rush from task to task, not completing one before another interrupts them. Serious problem-solving efforts degenerate into quick-and-dirty patching. Productivity suffers. Managing becomes a constant juggling act of deciding where to allocate overworked people and which incipient crisis to ignore for the moment.


Management by surprise.

One thing you might try is each time your boss comes in with new urgent tasks you ask him: "Which of the tasks we have already agreed on should I drop in exchange for the new one?"


  • Even though this is not the most ideal solution, it's still a good starting point. – Adriano Aug 22 '19 at 7:41
  • @Adriano: What is the most ideal solution then? – kritzel_sw Aug 22 '19 at 8:25
  • @kritzel_sw institutional change – aaaaa says reinstate Monica Aug 26 '19 at 0:35

By this brief description, it sounds like you company is busy, has a strong client base and healthy demand; it sounds like your company is staffed lean and mean; and deadlines are not a critical success factor, i.e., your clients are still providing a healthy demand despite their work being delayed. Perhaps your company is bringing in a healthy profit, as well. If my assumptions are correct, then I would label your scenario as "normal."

Every now and again, you get a product or a company or an individual with such a unique value proposition that customers are willing to stand in a line in the rain to get. Bringing in additional talent can certainly drive revenues up but there is a point where additional talent no longer yields that growth; it is the point of diminishing returns. Perhaps your leadership has determined that is where your talent utilization is and made a decision to maintain current levels of talent and allow deadlines to slide as there is little to no downside to client relations and satisfaction.

I am making huge assumptions here but wanted to bring another point of view or another possibility in the mix of answers.


I found "state of perpetual emergency" used in multiple contexts to describe this. An article that I recommend that describes this in the context of software development is "Catch the Pig!". https://pragprog.com/magazines/2011-05/catch-the-pig

Ask: "Do you think that there will be a day any time soon that is less busy than today" to get work done? So: "Shall we do the right thing today or never?"

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.