Estimating Realistic Project Deadlines

Open Loops:

Over at Thinking Faster, Jeffrey Phillips shared an article from The Economist about projects taking longer than expected and going overbudget as a result. Jeffrey states that this is a result of "Sunny Side" thinking. In other words, planning as if everything goes according to plan with no obstacles or setbacks.

Ah, if I had a dollar for every time…

The post continues to describe a formula for calculating project duration based on a formula that factors optimistic, pessimistic, and most likely durations for each task. It’s a good formula, and a good idea to use it, but here’s the thing: this is not a new development. What is described is PERT analysis, a technique developed by the US Navy nearly 50 years ago for the Polaris ballistic missile project. The problem isn’t having a methodology for accurate estimates. The problems are spreading the word and summoning the will and discipline to use techniques like this in the face of pressures to estimate quickly and communicate happy news and predict early dates.