Seattle Software Developers


Pugetworks Blog Archive!

Estimate Laundering: the planning antipattern

Project Manager: "These completion dates come from very high up.  It was part of the VP's presentation to the CTO."

Development Manager: "We must hit these dates."

Development Lead: "What can we do to make this date?"

Developer: "We can't move the date.  We have to cut these corners."

Vice President (the day before the date): "Why was this date so important?  It was just an early estimate I got from Tony (a team lead) and used for initial planning.  Why didn't we talk about things when we felt that it wasn't possible?"

Ever had this happen?  In the case above, everybody's trying to do their best -- the PM is communicating the VP's direction, and it rolls on down.  And the VP feels like he consulted the team before setting an initial goal.  And yet, nobody catches the problem in time to respond to it.

The problem is that nobody "owns" the date.  The early estimate (possibly from a developer in a hallway) got turned into the VP's mandate, washed of any of its original uncertainty or assumptions.

Dates need owners, so that those owners can verify the expected conditions, and make the call on when what was expected isn't what's experienced, and communicate the new plan.