7 Steps Ahead, LLC

Organizational Psychology for Managers
sold out at Amazon.com two days after it was released! Fortunately, more copies are now available. Click here to order. For excerpts, click here. To read a review of the book, click here.

Do you understand your company's personality?

Are you hearing the hoof beats of the four horsemen of business failure?

How can you make sure you're in the right place at the right time?

When is efficiency ruining your productivity?

What does it take for a team to consistently use its strengths instead of its weaknesses?

Just how different are leaders and managers really?

Despite the old claim about frogs sitting in water until it boils, they actually are smart enough to jump out. Why don't people do the same?

Why is it so hard to deal with Jerks in the office?

If there's no "I" in team, how does the team see where it's going?

Here's what Bank of America has to say about how leaders impact high performance teams.

What can you do when you feel you don't fit into a new organizational culture?

Some comments from my recent talk on Making Change Work at the Computer Measurement Group International Conference in Las Vegas.

Trying to build a creative, innovative culture? Check out this short article from Investors Business Daily.

Job feeling stressful? Here's how to relax at work.

If you want a motivated workforce, check out this article from Fox Business.

Learn the secrets of Mastering Your Schedule on Time Tamer Talk Radio.

"The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development" was listed by Amazon.com as one of the top 100 books on organizational behavior.



Publications and Announcements

Click here for the full list of publications

Are You Speaking to Me?
in Corp! Magazine

When the Solution is the Problem
in Corp! Magazine

The Paradox of Perfection
American Business Magazine

Flawed Execution? Don't Lose Your Head Over It
in Corp! Magazine

The Destroyer of Cultures
at ERE.Net

Help Star Performers Ramp Up The Whole Team
in Corp! Magazine

The Secret to Productive Staff Meetings   

in Medical Office Today 

 Don't Let Dracula Decisions Roam Your Business  

in Corp! Magazine 

The Blame of Phobos Grunt  

in Corp! Magazine 


 The Four Horsemen of Business Failure  

in MeasureIT

Of Cats and Unwanted Prizes 

in Corp! Magazine

Who Betrays One Master 

in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership


My Hovercraft is Full of Eels
in Corp! Magazine


Using the Force: What Every Exec Can Learn From Darth Vader
in the Worcester Business Journal

"Balance the Individual and the Team for Top Performance"
in Corp! Magazine

"Real Science Fiction"
in Corp! Magazine

"Shaky Ground"
in Lab Manager Magazine

Zen and the Art of Leadership
Talk presented at Infotec 2010

Recent Interviews

Do you understand your company's personality?
in ComputerWorld

Tell About Mistakes and Failed Projects
in Investors Business Daily

A Bad Work Environment Can Make You Sick
on CareerBliss

How Much Does Motivation Matter? 

  in CSI International


Profiting from Your Performance Review  

in NASDAQ Careers News


 Motivating Small Business Employees to Work As Hard As You  

in the Phonebooth


 Relax at Work? Ha! 

in the Jewish Exponent


The Mobility Morass  

in Specialty Fabrics Review


HR Mistake of the Week: Why Hiring for Emotional Intelligence Gets You a BFF Instead of a Star Employee
in The Grindstone

Using Games to Build Your Team
on the Talking Work Podcast

How to Use Sports to Advance Leadership and Organizational Development
on the Full Potential Show with James Rick

Hiring Mistakes
with Todd Raphael,
Editor, Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership

Organizational Development on
The David Lush Show, WNIX 1330 AM

Innovation and Corporate Culture
on KKZZ Brainstormin' with Bill Frank

The Startup Business Coach

The CEO and Organizational Development


How to Motivate Your Employees
on Fox Business

Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Move
in The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Art of Branding Your Career 

in Psychology Today

Prepping for Your Annual Review

in the NY Times


Making Pay Decisions Transparent 

in Human Resource Executive


Don't Like Your Job? Define One You Like 

in IT World


Computer Measurement Group Announces Keynote and Plenary Speakers for CMG'11 Taking Place December 5-9, 2011 at Gaylord National Hotel in D.C. Area  


 Career Focus: Engineering Management in Today's Engineer, a publication of the IEEE



4 Ways to Log Off on Time Off 


 About Creating Visions and Organizational Goals 


Researchers Find 'The Paradox of Meritocracy' 

in Human Resource Executive 


Game Changer 

in SHRM India


How to Stay Motivated on the Road to ITIL Expert  

in ITSM Watch


To Be a Leader, You Must Be a Follower 

in Oregon Business


 Incentivizing Employees
in Advance for Medical Laboratory Professionals

Tips for Making, Keeping Business Resolutions
at Fox Small Business

The Evolution of Leadership

Getting Results: Performance vs. Putting in the Hours

How to Self-Promote Without Being Obnoxious
on CNN

Hiring Headaches
in the IndUS Business Journal

Identifying Your Future Leaders
in IndustryWeek Magazine

Natural Born Project Managers: Myth or Reality at Project Manager Planet


How to Survive a Bad Team Leader
at Yahoo! Careers

Books and CDs

Contact Us

 Fatal Deadlines


"It ships on Monday!"


"We have a deadline to meet!"


"Why did you even set a deadline if you're going to change it?"


Deadlines. They matter until they don't. They are far away until suddenly they are right on top of us. Sometimes a deadline is sacrosanct, unchangeable no matter the situation or the quality of the product: one technology CEO I knew released his products on the day he promised them and nothing would change his mind. It was a point of pride for him to always release on schedule. His customers, however, were equally adamant that they wished it would be a point of pride for him to release products that worked. Yes, this particular CEO would release a non-functional product on the chosen date and then deal with fixing it in the field rather than slip the date and deal with the problems. Eventually, the customers won: they went to a competitor.


Other times, deadlines seem to be almost mystical talismans: setting a deadline will magically cause a product to be ready by that date. In one rather dramatic example from early in my career in high tech, the CEO turned to the head of engineering and asked him when the product would be ready.


"September 1st, best case scenario," was the curt reply.


The CEO nodded, picked up the phone, and said, "We'll have it ready by July 15th."


The head of engineering did a very credible job of not exploding.


When July 15th rolled around, the product was not ready. The CEO was shocked. His reaction was, "I set a deadline!"


Sometimes a deadline can spur people to dramatic action. Sometimes it can't. It's important to know which situation is which. When I was managing a team, I was once asked why I even bothered to set deadlines if I would then change them. The short answer was that it was because the only deadline that actually mattered was the one at the end, and that one we consistently managed to hit. How?


At the most basic level, deadlines are merely tools. They are powerful tools, but tools nonetheless. As will all power tools, it's important to know how to use them properly, lest your deadline prove fatal to your success.


At the beginning of any non-routine, non-trivial project, deadlines are basically little more than wishful thinking. Early deadlines exist to give you feedback: how well is your team working? How difficult is this project turning out to be? Will we be able to marshal the resources we need at the times we need them? Are we being aggressive enough? Are we being too aggressive? That feedback provides your roadmap moving forward. Therefore, start with small deadlines: don't rush forward in giant leaps which give you little information.


Whether you make those initial deadlines or miss them, the key is to be strategic: why did you make them? Why did you miss them? What are you learning about your team and your project? Early stage deadlines can be easily shifted and adjusted as needed, provided you don't lose sight of the feedback they are generating. Done right, the more flexible your early deadlines, the easier it is to hit your later ones. When you do miss a deadline, recalibrate! Don't just pile the extra work onto the next deadline; that only triggers a series of failed deadlines, which reduces productivity. Success is not how fast you can move, it's how smoothly you can accelerate.


As the project continues, you'll find that your ability to set useful, doable, aggressive deadlines will increase. You want your deadlines aggressive enough to excite and challenge your team, not so aggressive that people look and tell themselves that there's no point in trying. The secret to maintaining that excitement is simple: strive for deadlines that can be beaten with serious, but not unsustainable, effort. Beating deadlines increases excitement and builds a sense of success. Failing to meet deadlines has just the opposite effect. Quite simply, when people are ahead of schedule, they work harder, are more creative and innovative, and are better at problem solving.


Many a race ends with a final sprint across the finish line. How well you've managed the deadlines to that point will determine how hard the sprint is, and how much fuel your team has in its tank when you get there. If the team is exhausted and burned out, your deadline will likely prove fatal to your plans. On the other hand, if the team is excited and energized, they'll blast through that final deadline.





Like to dramatically improve performance in your organization? Contact us for a free initial consultation.  


Stephen R Balzac

About 7 Steps Ahead 
Stephen R. Balzac, "The Business Sensei," is a consultant, author, professional speaker, and president of 7 Steps Ahead, specializing in helping businesses get unstuck and transform problems into opportunities.

Steve has over twenty years of experience in the high tech industry and is the former Director of Operations for Silicon Genetics, in Redwood City, CA.

Steve is the author of The 36-Hour Course on Organizational Development, published by McGraw-Hill and a contributing author to Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play. Steve's latest book, "Organizational Psychology for Managers," was released by Springer in the fall of 2013. He writes the monthly business column, "Balzac on Business."

He is the president of the Society of Professional Consultants (SPC) and served as a member of the board of the New England Society for Applied Psychology. No stranger to the challenges of achieving peak performance under competitive and stressful conditions, he holds a fifth degree black belt in jujitsu and is a former nationally ranked competitive fencer.