Deadlines, workflows, task sorting, and work quality

Natarajan Balasubramanian, Jeongsik Lee, Jagadeesh Sivadasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Deadlines are often used to manage the time of valuable human capital. In this multimethod paper, we propose a theoretical framework grounded in a formal model that encapsulates the key drivers and consequences of deadline-related time pressures on workflows, task sorting, and work quality. We use large-scale data on patent filings, along with insights from primary data collection, to test our hypotheses. In line with our predictions, we find clustering of patent filings around month-ends, with month-end applications being more complex than those filed on other days. Consistent with time pressure reducing work quality, we find that work quality is lower for tasks completed at month-ends, more so for process measures of quality than for outcome measures. Calibration of our model to the data allows us to shed light on the benefits of deadlines and suggests small levels of task acceleration but potentially larger working capital-related benefits for law firms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1804-1824
Number of pages21
JournalManagement Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Deadlines
  • Incentives
  • Innovation
  • Productivity
  • Time pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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