“In the U.S. once a decision has been made the time afforded to implement that decision can be very short. Who is responsible for deciding what the hard deadline is?”
That would depend on the situation. What kinds of situations, or scenarios, are there?
There are teams. Most decisions which are implemented exist within the context of a team. You have a team-lead and team-members. The team operates within some kind of business ecosystem, meaning within a broader context of a company. Who determines deadlines? The team-lead. Perhaps the team-members. Possibly the receiver of the deliverables, which could be another team within the ecosystem.
Then there are projects. And projects are nothing more than a variation of a team. A project is a team for a limited time with a limited purpose. Who determines deadlines? Well if a project is simply a variation of a team, then it would be the project-lead. Perhaps the perhaps-members. Possibly the receiver of the deliverables, which could be another team within the ecosystem.
Then there are customers. Stated more precisely, teams or projects who iteract directly and closely with customers. Is this scenario any different in nature to the two above, teams and projects? I think not. Why?
Because all teams deliver results. Those results go to a customer, who is either company-internal or company-external. Yes, you can make the argument that the external customer is always more important than the company-internal customer. But, that also depends.
Who decides what the hard deadline is? Well, there are only three possibilities.
First is hierarchy. That would be the team- or project- or customer relation-lead. “I’m the boss. We need those results out the door and to the customer by this date. No discussion. Get to work.”
Second is implementation. These are the colleagues actually responsible for delivering the results. They should know best what is realistic, what makes sense, what best serves the customer, whether internal or external. They also are in constant contact with the customer, which means that they are in a position to adjust the schedule expectations of the customer, and together in agreement with the customer. The closer the collaboration with the customer “on the ground”, the more likely that deadlines can be handled flexibly.
Third is the customer. Taking the approach of “the customer is king” would place responsibility of setting deadlines in the hands of the people receiving the deliverables. But is this wise? Is this what truly benefits customer? Often their scheduling needs change. And any well-managed customer-supplier relationship is more of a partnership than it is a master-slave relationship.
My preference? Second, implementation, but in very close collaboration with the customer, and keeping informed the next-level hierarchies on both sides: supplier and customer. Time, speed and deadlines, however, should be managed by those implementing the decision.