Impossible timelines

Setting impossible timelines for your product turns out to have very few drawbacks and a wealth of anti-intuitive benefits.

13 years ago, as I was in the middle of negotiation to join a very early startup as a co-founder and partner, we all agreed one day to set up a very agressive timeline to close the deal so we could start building. After everyone left the room, I took a worried look at my lawyer, sharing my concern about the ambitious milestone.
"Sometimes, you need to put yourself in deep shit!" he replied, with his usual smirk.
Years later, I got it. Setting a seemingly impossible timeline unlocks impossible achievements.
Impossible timelines push the boundaries of creativity. They tap into our deepest resources to find an almost transcendental execution, managing dozens of processes in parallel hoping that somehow, everything will fall into place.
And more often than not, it does.
Impossible timelines have countless side-effects and little drawbacks. The risk being to announce something and not deliver. Yet, usually it's highly compensated by an accelerated learning phase, that lifted the whole team up.
On the other hand, the benefits are plenty, and some of them are unexpected. My favourite is the counter-intuitive effect on people. People might see impossible timelines as an inefficient, if not toxic method of management. My experience shows me otherwise: it's extremely beneficial for top performers. Of course, under-achievers are skeptical because any shortcoming is easier to spot in such periods. Another case are people exceptionally avert to pressure: when demand rises, some types of personality might respond negatively to the pressure that goes with it, regardless of their intrinsic qualities.
Nevertheless, top performers shine. Better, average performers discover themselves and embrace maximum responsibility, which fuels their self-confidence and as a side-effect, their motivation. Some profile simply crave moments like these, where it's all about shipping, delivering value, fixing things, cracking problems elegantly, inventing ways to do in 2 days instead of 2 weeks.
Impossible timelines create a state of hyper trust to the team, as nothing impossible can be done without collective work. They put the whole team on creative momentum, when everyone is looking for the adrenaline of achieving something that only our own delusion made us believe to be doable.

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