Episode 139 — Estimation

Adam, Brian, Carmen, and Jeff discuss the importance of accurately estimating time and budget as a practicing engineer.

  • Brian frequently makes estimates as part of his professional duties.
  • Detrimental effects of our anchoring bias are noted by Jeff.
  • We reference lecture notes from Francine Warner of Kennesaw State University in this episode.
  • In making estimates, one has to remember that people don’t like negative surprises. Thus, it is important to manage expectations.
  • Carmen reminds us to quickly and clearly share work-related problems with managers and co-workers.
  • It’s easier to sort out problems face-to-face than doing so via email, says Jeff.
  • Even though life’s events may break for us, as well as against us, Brian notes we always notice headwinds, but rarely appreciate an assisting tailwind.
  • Collecting opinions from multiple team members (with relevant experience) can help identify inaccurate estimates.
  • Estimates can be generated with a top down methodology, in which the cost and scope of project details are approximated from past experience.
  • When a bottom up methodology is used, estimates are generated from a close examination of many project details.
  • If a sufficient number of topic experts are available, another means for producing an estimate is the Delphi method.
  • Back in 2006, Jeff Atwood wrote a series of blog posts titled “How Good an Estimator Are You?”
  • Brian suggests our optimism bias allows us to undertake difficult projects.
  • Samsung made some inaccurate estimates of battery performance for their Galaxy Note 7 phone, recalls Jeff.
  • Several corporations have made rather bad business decisions.
  • Previously discussed in Episode 47, we mention Donald Rumsfeld’s Unknown Unknowns.
  • Jeff describes the problems of “feature creep,” which was also discussed in Episode 109.

Thanks to Robert Couse-Baker for use of the photo titled “summer maths.” Opening music by John Trimble, and concluding theme by Paul Stevenson.

2 thoughts on “Episode 139 — Estimation”

  1. I love your podcasts they are so helpful for school. I am on a FLL team and it would be so helpful to me if you talked about lego’s engineering programs. I also would love to hear your opinions on it.

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