Relooking at the estimate question from the management perspective can give you some new and powerful insights regarding clarification, transparency, breakdowns and why face to face reviews are important.
I had to submit a combined estimate for the project by the end of the day. I had had a 1 line email from James yesterday, saying that he needed 30 days for his part. I hadn’t had time to discuss it in detail but was briefly able to ask him “Are you sure about that estimate? Please check it again”
A day later and ping, a new email with a new estimate, this time just 20 days. Excellent, in 1 quick conversation I’d saved 10 days work! Wow, aren’t I efficient? Not quite…
I spoke with James again, he was extremely frustrated thinking that I didn’t trust his estimates and that I always made him cut the contingency out. After a cup of coffee he calmed down, we did a review we put back all the buffer, he’d done lots of research to show how complicated this part of the project could be and why we needed the buffer.
I submitted the combined estimate with full confidence in the numbers that came from James.
So, the things to think about…
- Make sure your team know why you’re asking them to review an estimate. The common assumption is often that you’re really saying “it’s too high, make it lower” when all you may be asking for is clarification and transparency about the work that needs to be done.
- Don’t accept estimations without breakdowns. Breakdowns enables a more objective discussion and mean you can quickly see that your team member has put a bit of thought into the work they’re doing.
- Invest the time when creating estimates and review them in a face to face meeting. This will enable you to more quickly clarify possible misunderstandings regarding scope, assumptions and the reasons for the estimates.