When strict deadlines are in place, workers tend to complete their tasks at the last minute, often leading to lower quality outcomes, a new study shows. In the study, the researchers from Syracuse University examined the impact of deadlines using large-scale patent data.
The findings showed that patent applications tend to cluster around the end of the month and those month-end applications are, on average, more complex.
Moreover, 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 Natarajan Balasubramanian, associate professor at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University in New York, US.
“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,” Balasubramanian added.
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The study suggests that 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, the researchers said.
“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,” Balasubramanian noted.
The study is forthcoming in Management Science.