Let’s get rid of COB deadlines

If you work in an office, it’s likely you’re familiar with the ‘COB’ deadline.

‘COB’ being the acronym for ‘Close Of Business’ or the old 5pm knock-off time.

“…get that report to me by COB Tuesday” or “I need that submitted by COB Friday” you’ll hear people say.

But here’s the thing. What is someone going to do with a document, report or submission that’s received at the end of the day?

The answer – probably nothing. At least not until maybe lunchtime the next business day.

Our work cycles are no longer 9-5. The COB deadline no longer reflects the nature of the work we do in a modern office context. In essence, the COB deadline is becoming obsolete.

So what do we do? I have two suggestions.

First, try setting the deadline relative to the timelines in the project you’re working on, rather than some arbitrary end of day timeline.

Second, set deadlines for lunch time or 12pm the day after you’re thinking about setting the COB deadline. Since you’re not likely to look at what’s submitted until the next day anyway, let’s give our colleagues a) the freedom to end their work day on time if their paper isn’t quite finished and b) the chance to ‘overnight-test’ their work to ensure they’re submitting something they can be proud of.

The last thing I’d say is, when setting deadlines, let’s prioritise what our people need to do their best work, rather than prioritising what we as managers need to get our own work done. At the end of the day, this is the essence of leadership.

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