If you’re reading this, there is a good chance that you do some sort of project work within your job. My blog doesn’t attact a lot of people outside of IT and the typical IT guy is working on project X, Y or Z and sometimes all 3 at the same time. If this isn’t you, I’ll save you some time and you can stop reading now.
Ok, so you are working with your boss and he/she has assigned you a project. Maybe its mapped out with all of the details or if you are like me, you will typically get a broad project goal and its your job to come up with the milestones and timeline.
Its this last part that gets tricky. You don’t want to set the goal line so far out that seems completely unreasonable, but at the same time, you don’t want to underestimate and go on a death march to get the project done on time. That is a recipe for burn out!
So I’m going to let you in on a little secret that I use. This is especially helpful when dealing with sales people as they want to know what it will take and they don’t give a shit what else comes up that delays things. So the simple answer is what I call the Scotty factor.
Here’s an example of the Scotty factor in action…
James T. Kirk: How much refit time before we can take her out again?
Montgomery Scott: Eight weeks, Sir, [Kirk opens his mouth] but ye don’t have eight weeks, so I’ll do it for ye in two.
James T. Kirk: Mr.Scott. Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?
Montgomery Scott: Certainly, Sir. How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?
James T. Kirk: [over the intercom] Your reputation is secure, Scotty.
So am I saying multiple all your project timelines by 4? Yup, pretty much. I actually use a factor of 3, you might use something higher like 5. There is this philosophy that claims to use 5 and let management beat you down to something more realistic but nothing short of a factor of 2.
The main thing I want to stress here is…you probably suck at time estimation. I would say that 99% of us suck at it and that 1% are just really lucky at guessing. They’ll most likely be waaaaaay off the next time around.
Do yourself a favor and the next time you get a project and think, heck this will only take me a week to knock out, tell your boss 3! Even if you get it done in 1 or 2, you are a shining example of how efficient all employees should be.