Project thoughts: Every task takes a week

I recently went on a basic project management course, and while discussing while estimating I had a minor insight.

It is a frequently cited problem in software development that estimating how long it will take to do a task – whether desgin or implementation – is hard. On the project course we discussed using ranges instead of simple estimates and using the size of the range as a measure of risk. Some people even objected to that, saying that you could only estimate what you had done before. There is a grain of truth in that but, IMHO, once you have written your first “hello, world” in a language everything is similar to a greater or lesser extent.

When I have done any estimating myself I noted how frequently I answered “how long will this take?” with “a week” or “two weeks”. My feeling is that, any task that is too big to be done in a week is generally too big to even attempt to estimate or even give a title to, so we split it up into chunks that generally take, well, about a week. And any task that is so small that it would take less than a week is combined with other tasks that add up to, well, about a week!

If you have ever seen the movie The Money Pit or worked with house builders at all then you are familar with the two week estimate. There is only ever two weeks of work: what we do this week and what we intend to do next week!

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