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Unformatted text preview: information, and gave the estimate to the boss. After that, she forgot all about the job. Two
months passed. Then the bomb was dropped. Her boss appeared, all smiles. “Remember that estimate you did
for me on the xyz job?” She had to think hard to remember, but as her boss droned on, it came back to her. He piled a big stack of
specifications on her desk. “It’s your job now,” he told her and drifted off again into manager dreamland.
As she studied the pile of paper, Karen felt herself growing more concerned. There were significant
differences between this set of specs and what her boss had told her when she did the estimate. “Oh well, I’m
sure he knows that,” she told herself. She managed to work up a new estimate for the job on the basis of the
real specs. It was almost 50% higher than the ballpark. She checked her figures carefully, assured herself that
they were correct, and went to see her boss.
He took one look at the numbers and went ballistic. “What are you trying to do to me?” he yelled. “I already
told the old man we would do it for the original figure. I can’t tell him it’s this much more. He’ll kill me.”
One of the ten primary causes of project failures is that ballpark estimates become targets.
“But you told me it was just a ballpark number you needed,” Karen argued. “That’s what I gave you. But this
is nothing like the job I quoted. It’s a lot bigger.”
“I can’t help that,” her boss argued. “I already gave him the figures. You’ll have to find a way to do it for the
Naturally, you know the rest of the story. The job cost even more than Karen’s new estimate. There was a lot
of moaning and groaning, but in the end, Karen survived. Oh, they did send her off to a course on project
management. Hoping, no doubt, that she would learn how to estimate better in the future.
Guidelines for documenting estimates:
• Show the percent tolerance that is likely to apply.
• Tell how the estimate was made and what assumptions were used.
• Specify any factors that might affect the validity of the estimate (e.g., will it still be valid after six
Can you fault Karen for anything? Well, perhaps. If she failed to tell her boss that a ballpark estimate may
have a tolerance of perhaps 25% to as much as 100%, then she allowed him to think the estimate was better
than it was. Also, she should have documented all working assumptions, explaining how she did the estimate,
to what project it was compared, and so on. Then, if management still pulled a whammy on her, at least she
would have had some protection. In fact, it is impossible to make sense of any estimate unless these steps are
taken, so this should be standard practice. EXERCISE
Following is a list of tasks involved in a project to prepare for a camping trip. Draw a WBS that places the
tasks in their proper relationship to each other. The solution is shown in the Appendix.
• Arrange for supplies and equipment...
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- Fall '13