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Under Or Over?

In general, humans suck at estimating. In specific, (without historical data,) software engineers suck at estimating both the size and effort to build a product – a double whammy. Thus, the bard is wrong. The real thought worth pondering is:

To underestimate or overestimate, that is the question.

In “Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art“, Steve McConnell boldly answers the question with this graph:

As you can see, the fiscal penalty for underestimation rockets out of control much quicker than the penalty for overestimation. In summary, once a project gets into “late” status, project teams engage in numerous activities that they don’t need to engage in if they overestimated the effort: more status meetings with execs, apologies, triaging of requirements, fixing bugs from quick-dirty workarounds implemented under schedule duress, postponing demos, pulling out of trade shows, more casual overtime, etc.

So, now that the under/over question has been settled, what question should follow? How about this scintillating selection:

Why do so many orgs shoot themselves in the foot by perpetuating a culture where underestimation is the norm and disappointing schedule/cost performance reigns supreme?

Of course, BD00 has an answer for it (cuz he’s got an answer for everything):

Via the x-ray power of POSIWID, it’s simply what hierarchical command and control social orgs do; and you can’t ask such an org to be what it ain’t.

  1. October 29, 2012 at 3:51 am

    One can ask – without expectation of the outcome (positive or negative). 🙂

    • October 29, 2012 at 4:23 am

      Ah yes, but it’s hard…. very hard.

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