Some project managers still seem to have this (albeit unwritten) notion that estimates can be treated as a kind of ‘resource booking’ or ‘Diary Booking’ arrangement. You are allocated to work on one thing and one thing only, you work on it until it’s completed and that’s that.

So if I estimate 2.5 days of analysis, that means I will start on Monday and finish at lunchtime on wednesday, right?

Wrong.

And it’s wrong on many levels. Not least because the nature of analysis is such that you often need to leave and come back to things. Either because you are waiting for the customer to respond or digest what has been presented, or to take actions on their side. In the mean time, one can slot in other work. As long as we don’t have too much work in flight that doesnt get completed thats fine by me. And Kanban and agile is good at managing all this anyway.

I dare say 100% velocity on a piece of work is sometimes achievable, but often not. If anything I would suggest it is often undesirable. To leave something and come back to it can sometimes be a good thing. You see it with fresh eyes. Like composing music (which I do when not doing this) you dont do it all in one go. You have to sometimes step away and come back. It takes time *.

In my case, I avoid estimating on a ‘Diary Booking’ basis if I can. My 2.5 days of analysis might be spread across 2 weeks and rightly so. The The Mythical Man month explored the reasoning behind all of this nearly 40 years ago. Nothing has changed.

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* Having said that, developers often don’t like this. They complain about it and call it “context switching”. And sometimes they have point. There is nothing worse than being pulled continually from pillar-to-post and I am not for one moment condoning that which is equally as bad. But working on an IT project is not like fitting a kitchen.

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