Project Management

Stop Playing 'Bring Me a Rock' Schedule Games!

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman, known as the "Pragmatic Manager," offers frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams learn to see simple and reasonable things that might work. Equipped with that knowledge, they can decide how to adapt their product development. Her recent books are the "Modern Management Made Easy" series and "Create Your Successful Agile Project."

Back in No More Watermelon Status Reports: How to Use Stories to Explain Project State, a reader asked how to help management understand why an estimated duration was “so long.”

The answer is that the manager is playing the “Bring Me a Rock” schedule game. That’s when the manager wants the project manager or the people doing the work to reduce their estimate durations.

The Bring Me a Rock schedule games tend to occur under these conditions:

  • When people estimate alone and you, the project manager, rolls up the estimate.
  • Even when teams estimate, if the people know they will work alone, they tend to add buffer time to their estimates.
  • When your manager wants to see a Gantt Chart and pick out certain tasks or people for more detailed understanding.

Bring Me a Rock occurs when a more senior person tries to pressure a less senior person into changing the original estimate.

If people estimate or work alone, the project manager is much more susceptible to pressure from senior leaders.

Solo Work and “Bring Me a Rock”
Imagine a scenario I see all too often: Someone breaks down the large requirements into smaller chunks. With any luck, those chunks provide customer or user value. That is, when the team completes a chunk, the user could use that piece of value.

Here’s a software example. Imagine you want to …

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