Curiosity: The Prerequisite for Good Estimates

Jan Warko, PMP

What makes for a good estimate?   
In a nutshell, I believe it’s curiosity, and the ability to ask questions until your curiosity and your team’s curiosity is satisfied.  To keep the questions coming, ask your estimators (yourself included) to ‘live’ the estimates.  Help them understand the importance of their estimate in the context of the project.   “If we had to present our estimate in an hour and couldn’t change it, in what way would your estimate or assumptions change?”  Or, “If you had to bet your job on the accuracy of your estimate, would anything change?  Why?”   Curiosity killed the cat, as the saying goes.   Lack of curiosity can kill your project just as easily.

Getting a handle on estimating terminology is also essential.  Effort and duration play key roles in schedule estimates (check your PMBOK or any number of other project management documents for the official definitions).  

  • I like to think of effort as the amount of time an activity or task would take if one person did the task at a 100% productivity level for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  The effort  portion of the estimate is the place to take into consideration a resource’s productivity and experience level (ask them, and/or document your assumptions).  
  • Duration is that same amount of work identified in your effort estimate, but placed in the …

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