I’ve seen many comments on the topic of estimation in the past year, and I’m starting to notice some trends and assumptions in them. One of the common assumptions is that, given a particular team and amount of resources, there is a correct length to a project. A twin to this one is that there is a correct estimate that contains the same end date as the subsequent actual project performance.
I realize that a lot of the dysfunctions in the practice of making and using estimates derives from these assumptions. I’m not surprised that there is a class of middle managers who have been promoted to management positions without management training or mentoring who hold such beliefs. I am somewhat surprised when people who are lobbying to drop the practice of estimation also espouse the same beliefs.
As I think about any project in which I’ve participated in the development, I can think of alternative ways the work could have been organized. Perhaps the work of different individuals or team could have been integrated earlier and more fully. Perhaps the work could have been done in a different order. Perhaps unknowns about the technology or solution could have been discovered before significant work had been built on incorrect assumptions. Perhaps simple human mistakes could have been discovered earlier, or, if different people had been involved in the erroneous task, avoided altogether.