Good Project Task Estimates

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Integrated Project Management
By Earl Hall, Juliane Johnson
Table of Contents
Chapter 6.  Creating The Project Gantt Chart


To get good task estimates, a project manager should discuss the following issues with the task leaders:

  1. Explain how an inaccurate estimate can impact planning and project management. It not only clouds the accuracy of the finish date, it also distorts the task start date anticipated later on by other task leaders.

  2. Ensure that the task workgroup member with the most task knowledge participates in making the estimate. Discuss each of the following factors for developing an accurate estimate:

    • The task leader's experience with similar tasks from other projects

    • Other worker's task experiences

    • Expert opinions (subject matter experts)

    • Support needs and availability

    • Time availability of the task workers

    • Management support

  3. For a new or experimental task, consider having two or more experts help make the estimate. A task estimate can include time for two or three tries if experience suggests they will be necessary to get it right. (If time is more critical than cost, it sometimes is desirable for some technical tasks that two, or even three, task workgroups work on the task at the same time.)

Earl Hall worked on a project to design of a hydro-mechanical device that was unique enough to result in a patent. In this project, time estimates were based on his experience with similar efforts. Each task in this prior similar creative experience invariably involved a series of tries. Each try was a learning experience on which to base the next try. Three tries in succession typically produced the desired task result. Experience taught Earl what it takes to "worry" a problem from recognition to "Eureka!" The time duration he predicted for the task was the time it took to make three tries. Thus, it is reasonable to ask creative people to give time estimates!

Motivating and empowering a team often begins by the project manager providing some help. A task leader may become uneasy when asked to produce reliable task time and effort estimates. The project manager can assist this task leader by helping to review past projects or by identifying knowledgeable people for the task leader to query. Such help empowers the task leader to make a good call.

Gathering data for the project Gantt chart must be taken very seriously! The project team must allow enough time for this process; yet, the process must not drag. It may take more than a one- or two-hour meeting. Be prepared to schedule two or three Gantt chart meetings in close succession to complete the chart's development.

Some people who perceive their tasks to be very creative may insist that they have no idea how long a task is going to take and that they cannot do anything about it. This attitude torpedoes project planning. The creative person with experience does have the knowledge for stating how long tasks typically take, but he or she just has never kept track of the time. A project manager may have to patiently lead this person back through his or her work history to arrive at the task estimates. This person will be somewhat comforted by knowing that he or she does not have to be exactly right with the estimate.


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    Integrated Project Management
    Integrated Project Management
    ISBN: 0071466266
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2005
    Pages: 190

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