Project Management

Wake Me Up When You're Done

Topics: Estimating

I got a call about a week ago from a customer I had previously done business with. One of the projects they recently sub-contracted was turning out to be a real mess. Their contractor was four months into a 10-month contract and had absolutely nothing to show for it.


I accepted their challenge to take over the contract and jumped on the first flight available. Since I didn't have much time to prepare, I simply grabbed my old copy of PeopleWare: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister so I'd have something to read on the plane.


Chapter 5, "Parkinson's Law Revisited," really struck me. For some reason, I don't recall having read this article before, but I found it so enriching that I had to write about it.


I've previously written about Parkinson's Law and I still firmly believe that "every software development feature has a two-day, two-week, and two-month version," and that when given no deadline, some developers will take the extra time to add bells and whistles that offer little or no value to the customer. But DeMarco and Lister present a very opposing view of Parkinson's Law. And more importantly, they back it up with scientific data.


After burning British author C. Northcote Parkinson for a few paragraphs, DeMarco and Lister go on to present data gathered by "two respectable researchers from the …

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"Whatever does not destroy me makes me stronger."

- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche