Some downloadable notes on estimating

One of tha participants from a course asked for some more information on estimating – so here is a downloadable copy of my mimi-ebook with some rough notes on estimating. 

Most of the material also appears in this blog somewhere and I have since updated some of my thinking (as I am continuing to do).  So it would be great to get suggestions/challenges or comments for me to use in the future.

Estimation toolkit – June 2010 v1.0


Unusual predictors of team success

I was reading Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” and I came across a passage about predicting which teams are likely to be successful.  It describes a guy who counts the number of times he hears people use the word “we” and the number of the times they used the word “they” when referring to their own company.

Apparently the “they” teams are likely to fail and the “we” teams are generally successful.

This made sense to me because when I have always listened when managers use the terms “we”, “you” and “I”. The dodgy managers I have worked for tend to use pronouns like this:

  • “They” or “management” want us to … rather than “I would like to … “;
  • “You” messed up or “team member x messed up”; and
  • “I delivered” something.

I even heard a manager once say “if it was up to me I would do … but you know that management wouldn’t accept that”.  Which was interesting since the person I was talking to was “management”.

On the other hand I have also had good managers and I have noticed that they tend to say:

  • “We” messed up or “We” have a problem;
  • “You” did a good job; and
  • “The team” delivered something.

But I have not previously thought about actually counting the times members of the team say “they” versus “we” so I think I will try that next time I am auditing a project or coaching a team.

A similar thing I have used in the past though was to see if the team (particularly IT teams) refer to their internal customers by name (eg Brian or Mary) or whether they refer to them as “the business”.  It’s interesting how often people refer to “the business” as the customer. 

So my new predictor of success for teams I coach is going to be based on

  1. The number of the times they use the term “we or us” versus “them” and the number of times they refer to stakeholders by name versus using the terms “they”, “management” or “the business”.
  2. The number of times team members use the term “we delivered something” versus “I delivered something”. 
  3. The number of times the team say “we stuffed up” versus “x stuffed up”, “they don’t know what they are doing”, or “that’s not how I think they should have done it”.

What do you think – will there be a strong correlation between the use of different pronouns and team success?

The one thing you can’t outsource is innovation – or is it?

This blog is normally a collection of my own thoughts rather than a source for links to other people’s thinking.

But it seems a lot of companies are now deliberately asking others to do their thinking for them, so it seems fair enough for me to do the same.

Here is an interesting link to an article on crowdsourcing.

So my question is – if you can even outsource your thinking, what does it mean to be an organisation in the new world order?

Should measures be “SMART”?

I was having a debate with a friend of mine recently.  He said that all measures should be “SMART”.

The term is usually used for goals and says that the goal should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely (or something similar).

The problem I pointed out was that the M in SMART means measurable so the concept of SMART measures is a bit redundant. He responded that in his experience many of the “measures” he saw in place were not actually being measured and so, he claimed, it would be good to remind people to actually have measures that they will measure.

I am not sure if he is exactly right or not, but I came up with my own standard for measures.  Its a little lazy compared to some, but I find it useful.

I think measures should be Credible, Useful and Easy (CUE).  

The most important component is Useful – the meansure must assist you to either make a better decision, change a specific bahaviour or reduce the ambiguity in your understanding of something.  It is suprising how easy it is to forget that the measure is only worthwhile if it can be used for something – in which case you should understand what you are likely to use it for before designing the measure.

But the measure also needs to be Credible so that you and others are confident that you can rely on it.  Note however that being Credible without being Useful is actually worse that not being Credible – you will confidently make decisions on the wrong data.  Thus you also need to understand where the measure will sound good but not be relevant.

Easy means that it should be easy enough to measure to make it worth doing.  So a measure might be worthwhile even if it is a substantial effort as long as you gain a huge benefit from it.  But my experience is that if it is hard to measure then people will forget to measure it, take short cuts and even fudge the information.  So the harder it is to perform the measure the more you need to ensure the people doing the measuring believe it is Credible and Useful to measure it propoerly.

So there you have it – measures should be CUE.  Not quite the same ring to it as saying goals should be SMART but good enough to be useful (I hope).