Business Performance Blog
We share our news and reflections on the world of business.
Join our discussion on the latest research, reports and opinion.
Estimating Is an Incredible “Mind Game”
Submitted by Adele Sommers on March 12th, 2013
At a talk I gave to my local chapters of STC and PMI, I spoke on the challenge of estimating projects accurately. During that event, I thoroughly enjoyed engaging the participants in the same fun estimating simulation that I’ve used elsewhere.
Once again, the answers from the audience on how long it should take to complete each of three simple tasks ranged from barely a few minutes to several hours. As always, audience members were amazed at their range of views on how long they thought they’d spend on seemingly “no-brainer” tasks.
So, why (again) is the estimating process so important, and yet so difficult? One set of reasons I haven’t fully articulated is that estimating our time entails:
- Formulaic aspects, which include the basic numerical computations we use to arrive at a total. If that were all there were to it, we could just treat estimating like a simple arithmetic exercise and be done with it!
- Psychological phenomena, including the fascinating propensity we have to imagine work getting done in record time, under perfect conditions. I believe we tend to vastly underestimate more often than not – by a factor of 2 or 3.
- Social norms, which involve how we tend to look to others to get a sense of whether our “answers” are correct. We defer to their values and judgments rather than to verifiable evidence of how long something actually takes to do.
- Organizational politics, which can intimidate us into overestimating our abilities and may persuade us to back into highly precarious scenarios, based on “must-have,” “must-do,” or “must-win” business pressures.
But we can fight back using the twelve powerful estimating techniques discussed in my article, 12 Powerful Estimating Strategies.
Do you need to monitor and report your project’s performance? Check out our simple yet effective Project Scorecard. Present a no-fuss informative one-page project performance report to your project team and project sponsor in five key result areas. Find out more about Project Scorecard and download today.