After reading this posting, I am reminded of a story that was told to me about one of my former co-workers. (This is second hand, so some of the details may not be 100%… And I’ve elaborated on some points for background and reader comprehension… Mea culpa…)
There was a new Project Manager that started at my former company. I’m not sure what his motivation was, but he pulled Ben aside for the following conversation:
- Project Manager
- How long does it take to integrate a new site?
- Oooh. That’s tough. It depends on a lot of things, and varies widely from site to site.
- Yeah, but if you had to spitball a number, how many hours would it take?
- Y’know, I can’t really answer that. I’m just a developer. There’s all the work the systems people do, the forms work, the data migration… There’s just a whole bunch of stuff that I don’t have visibility into…
- Well, you see, I need you to tell me, even if it is a guess, how long that all takes.
- I am not qualified to give you that estimate. Besides, even if I do give you an estimate, you’re going to ask me to "revise the estimate" because it’s gonna be a number you don’t like. Then, down the line, the newly shrunk number is going to come up as the basis for a deadline, and when that deadline gets overshot, you’re gonna come back to me and tell me that the missed deadline is my fault.
- You’re not understanding me: I need this estimate.
(… this continues for several hours… Finally.)
- What is the estimate for this?!?
- Fine. You want an estimate, I’ll give you an estimate. I suspect the integration of a new site, in hours, will take aboooouuuuttt… Bowling Ball Point Two Percent. Because anything else I tell you will make just about as much sense.
So now, with my current co-workers, if anyone asks for some estimate that really is non-sensical, we answer in units of "Bowling Ball".