1658: "Estimating Time"

This forum is for the individual discussion thread that goes with each new comic.

Moderators: Moderators General, Prelates, Magistrates

User avatar
Linux0s
Posts: 247
Joined: Sat Dec 29, 2007 7:34 pm UTC

1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby Linux0s » Mon Mar 21, 2016 6:58 pm UTC

Image

Title Text: Corollary to Hofstadter's Law: Every minute you spend thinking about Hofstadter's Law is a minute you're NOT WORKING AND WILL NEVER FINISH! PAAAAAANIIIIIIC!

Math trolls are hard core.
If the male mind truly were a machine it would consist of a shaft and a bushing.

User avatar
The Moomin
Posts: 339
Joined: Wed Oct 13, 2010 6:59 am UTC
Location: Yorkshire

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby The Moomin » Mon Mar 21, 2016 7:33 pm UTC

Damned project managers.
Spend so much time trying to manage the project, no-one is actually doing the project.
I possibly don't pay enough attention to what's going on.
I help make architect's dreams flesh.

User avatar
ucim
Posts: 6247
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:23 pm UTC
Location: The One True Thread

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby ucim » Mon Mar 21, 2016 7:55 pm UTC

My method: Make my best estimate, double it, and go to the next unit. Thus, allow two weeks for a one day job.

Jose
Order of the Sillies, Honoris Causam - bestowed by charlie_grumbles on NP 859 * OTTscar winner: Wordsmith - bestowed by yappobiscuts and the OTT on NP 1832 * Ecclesiastical Calendar of the Order of the Holy Contradiction * Please help addams if you can. She needs all of us.

User avatar
Echo244
Posts: 511
Joined: Wed May 20, 2015 9:49 am UTC
Location: Ping! Ping! Ping! Ping!

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby Echo244 » Mon Mar 21, 2016 9:31 pm UTC

The Moomin wrote:Damned project managers.
Spend so much time trying to manage the project, no-one is actually doing the project.


Yeah, but without a PM, who's going to herd the cats? I've known lead developers who, left to their own devices, will be trying to optimise the search function efficiency by 3%, or get the product to run a cinema booking system on Playstations. And meanwhile the rest of the company are sitting and waiting for a system for them to use...

Yeah, so many things get over-managed, but... it's better that at least someone has their eye on how the whole project is going.
Unstoppable force of nature. That means she/her/hers.
Has committed an act of treason.

rmsgrey
Posts: 3354
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:35 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:10 pm UTC

Echo244 wrote:
The Moomin wrote:Damned project managers.
Spend so much time trying to manage the project, no-one is actually doing the project.


Yeah, but without a PM, who's going to herd the cats? I've known lead developers who, left to their own devices, will be trying to optimise the search function efficiency by 2%, or get the product to run a cinema booking system on Playstations. & meanwhile the rest of the company are sitting & waiting for a system for us to use...

Yeah, so many things get over-managed, but... it's better that at least someone has their eye on how the whole project is going.


As in so many things, the ideal situation is to strike an appropriate balance - have enough management to keep things from going off the rails or getting bogged down on minor details, but not so much management that everyone spends all their time on the paperwork, and has to put in overtime to get any actual work done.

The perfect middle-manager intercepts upper-management's more pointy-haired ideas and initiatives and keeps them from troubling the people actually doing the work, while getting good results out of those below them (something made all the easier by them not having to spend too much time on bureaucracy).

User avatar
jc
Posts: 344
Joined: Fri May 04, 2007 5:48 pm UTC
Location: Waltham, Massachusetts, USA, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy
Contact:

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby jc » Tue Mar 22, 2016 3:14 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:The perfect middle-manager intercepts upper-management's more pointy-haired ideas & initiatives & keeps us from troubling the people actually doing the work, while getting good results out of those below us (something made all the easier by us not having to spend too much time on bureaucracy).

When I was in college back in the 70's, I met a guy from Bell Labs who described his job that way. He was expected to recognize all the top managers, intercept them, wine & dine them, tie them up in meetings with other managers, and in general to do anything he could to make sure they had absolutely no direct contact with the researchers. He said that his bosses (a few of the very top people at the Labs) explained that it was the few people like him that were a major reason for the impressive output of new technology at the Labs. Of course, since then AT&T has gotten much better organized, so such things are no longer possible, and "innovation" there is now the usual corporate process of buying up other people's inventions and making small tweaks to them so they can put a "New! Improved!" label on them.

I've read of a number of other truly innovative companies that have people filling this sort of position. It's also not unknown for this sort of interception to occur in academia. It's always tempting for any management structure to evolve tools for strict enforcement of organizations standards, and of course that tends to kill any sort of innovative approach to anything.

RogueCynic
Posts: 379
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 10:23 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby RogueCynic » Tue Mar 22, 2016 3:59 am UTC

Just do what Commander Scott does. Tae a best guess and multiply it by seven.
I am Lord Titanius Englesmith, Fancyman of Cornwood.
See 1 Kings 7:23 for pi.
If you put a prune in a juicer, what would you get?

User avatar
da Doctah
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 6:27 am UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby da Doctah » Tue Mar 22, 2016 5:57 am UTC

I don't have to estimate. Marketing takes care of that for me, basing their calculations entirely on how much the users whine and bitch about their first (ironically, often at least somewhat realistic) wild guess being too long.

User avatar
sfmans
Posts: 104
Joined: Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:09 am UTC
Location: High Peak, UK

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby sfmans » Tue Mar 22, 2016 8:30 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:The perfect middle-manager intercepts upper-management's more pointy-haired ideas & initiatives & keeps us from troubling the people actually doing the work, while getting good results out of those below us (something made all the easier by us not having to spend too much time on bureaucracy).


Amen to that with a brass Dawkins on the top.

I've been fortunate enough to work in that sort of situation, and also unfortunate enough to have worked places which really made you appreciate how true that statement is. Current gig is about 80/20 upside, which will do nicely.

The reason that so many PMs are dangerously worse than useless is that they think that their role is more than that, whereas everything they actually do that isn't that, makes the overall project worse. Which is why, as a generalisation, developers hate project managers (and vice versa of course, but that's just PMs being completely wrong again).

User avatar
cellocgw
Posts: 1883
Joined: Sat Jun 21, 2008 7:40 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby cellocgw » Tue Mar 22, 2016 11:23 am UTC

RogueCynic wrote:Just do what Commander Scott does. Tae a best guess & multiply it by eight.


"If we go by the book, hours will seem like days."


ETA: I sent the comic's link to my manager. If you never hear from me again you'll know why :cry:
https://app.box.com/witthoftresume
Former OTTer
Vote cellocgw for President 2020. #ScienceintheWhiteHouse http://cellocgw.wordpress.com
"The Planck length is 3.81779e-33 picas." -- keithl
" Earth weighs almost exactly π milliJupiters" -- what-if #146, note 7

AveSharia
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2016 9:40 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby AveSharia » Tue Mar 22, 2016 2:30 pm UTC

cellocgw wrote:ETA: I sent the comic's link to my manager. If I never hear from me again I'll know why :cry:


I too sent this to my boss, and posted it in my cube. He regularly has us estimate projects at the barrel of a gun.

He didn't reply.

I once did quite a bit of research on my own time trying to figure out how professional project managers combat Hofstadter's Law, thinking "Well hell, if it's common enough to have a name, there must be a solution, right?" It's a deep, dark rabbit hole that involves endless exercise in planning and feigned empiricism to obfuscate the fact that, no, nobody has any fucking clue how to overcome it.

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 2876
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby orthogon » Tue Mar 22, 2016 3:51 pm UTC

If somebody's most realistic estimate of how long it will take is an imaginary number, they really are bad at estimating.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

User avatar
Flumble
Yes Man
Posts: 1996
Joined: Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:35 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby Flumble » Tue Mar 22, 2016 4:34 pm UTC

How does one estimate the time it takes to do anything that involves unknowns/new things?

orthogon wrote:If somebody's most realistic estimate of how long it will take is an imaginary number, they really are bad at estimating.

At least they show some familiarity with mathematics, which is generally a good thing. And depending on the power they have, the schedule can actually turn out real.

xtifr
Posts: 322
Joined: Wed Oct 01, 2008 6:38 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby xtifr » Tue Mar 22, 2016 10:26 pm UTC

Flumble wrote:How does six estimate the time it takes to do anything that involves unknowns/new things?

orthogon wrote:If somebody's most realistic estimate of how long it will take is an imaginary number, they really are bad at estimating.

At least they show some familiarity with mathematics, which is generally a good thing. & depending on the power they have, the schedule can actually turn out real.

Otherwise, well, it's complicatedex.
"[T]he author has followed the usual practice of contemporary books on graph theory, namely to use words that are similar but not identical to the terms used in other books on graph theory."
-- Donald Knuth, The Art of Computer Programming, Vol I, 3rd ed.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 4574
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Mar 22, 2016 10:29 pm UTC

is an imaginary time just a place
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
flicky1991
Like in Cinderella?
Posts: 720
Joined: Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:36 pm UTC
Location: London

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby flicky1991 » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:29 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:is an imaginary time just a place

*applauds*
any pronouns
----
Forum Games Discord
(tell me if link doesn't work)

User avatar
Wee Red Bird
Posts: 177
Joined: Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:50 am UTC
Location: In a tree

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby Wee Red Bird » Thu Mar 24, 2016 8:04 am UTC

Been in situations were management complain that a project is overrunning, so schedule a daily, hour long meeting to check progress with the full team. The project manager then schedules a pre-meeting meeting so we can have everything ready for the higher management meeting. Again, an hour. All this time is to be booked against the project. Including time of these higher level managers.

No one understands why progress is slow or why the budget is blown.

User avatar
da Doctah
Posts: 872
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 6:27 am UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby da Doctah » Thu Mar 24, 2016 9:36 am UTC

Manager: "How long will it take to get your TPS reports ready with the new cover sheets?"
Me (I wish): "Hunnert dollers. Definitely 'bout a hunnert dollers...."

User avatar
orthogon
Posts: 2876
Joined: Thu May 17, 2012 7:52 am UTC
Location: The Airy 1830 ellipsoid

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby orthogon » Thu Mar 24, 2016 9:38 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:is an imaginary time just a place

:) Brilliant. Though as I understand it, it's more that Special Relativity makes more sense if you assume that time is imaginary. Everything travels through spacetime at c, but as that velocity vector is moved away from the time axis, it actually projects further along that axis. So maybe Megan knew of what she spoke all along.
xtifr wrote:... and orthogon merely sounds undecided.

User avatar
chalkie
Posts: 44
Joined: Wed Feb 24, 2010 10:03 am UTC
Location: River Trent, UK

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby chalkie » Thu Mar 24, 2016 10:45 am UTC

Back when I worked in large transactional systems in COBOL and a hierachical database, we could use some handy "rules of thumb" for estimation. The BA would do a Function Point Analysis, and each FP is a day. Each form/screen format is a day. each database table involved is a day. If the program requirement is generally accepted as being "more complex than normal", then add maybe 3-5 days. Obviously some of these points which have added a day really only add 10 minutes, and sometimes other outside influences can add several days, but we often found that as a starting point this method would average out over the life of a project. Once some stuff is in and working, we could see how long it actually took and that'd give us feedback into how well the estimating was working. Then we could apply a calculated factor to the remaining work to give us a revised estimate. (These numbers are for developer time, by the way - including initial testing and documentation etc.)

And now I've just remembered one of the last such projects I worked on...
All was well until the last part of the description above. The management had somehow magically decided on an end date, so when we were able to report back "great news, we've got some stuff done, and now we can get a better estimate of how long the rest is going to take (it's longer, by the way)" They simply looked at their end date and instructed us to revise our estimates DOWN so that the end date was still met. "Estimation is not open to negotiation" we said (Which I thought was a quote from Michael Jackson (of JSP), but I can't immediately find a reference) we were overruled :-(

Douglas Adams said "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

AveSharia
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2016 9:40 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby AveSharia » Thu Mar 24, 2016 2:55 pm UTC

Wee Red Bird wrote:Been in situations were management complain that a project is overrunning, so schedule a daily, hour long meeting to check progress with the full team. The project manager then schedules a pre-meeting meeting so we can have everything ready for the higher management meeting. Again, an hour. All this time is to be booked against the project. Including time of these higher level managers.

No one understands why progress is slow or why the budget is blown.


I think we must work at the same place. My solution was to title the meeting invites as follows, and send them all in quick succession:

Invite: XYZ Project 1-hour Weekly Status Update
Invite: XYZ Project 1-hour Pre-Weekly Status Update Meeting
Invite: XYZ Project 1-hour Pre-pre Weekly Status Update Meeting Conference Call

When we got to the Pre-pre-pre-meeting-meeting-meeting-conference call, they finally started to notice.

User avatar
Pfhorrest
Posts: 4574
Joined: Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Mar 24, 2016 6:10 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:is an imaginary time just a place

:) Brilliant. Though as I understand it, it's more that Special Relativity makes more sense if you assume that time is imaginary.

Yeah, that's the joke, because an imaginary number times an imaginary number is a real number, so if time values are already imaginary space values, an imaginary time value would just be a space value again.
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)

User avatar
Copper Bezel
Posts: 2416
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:35 am UTC
Location: Web exclusive!

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Mar 25, 2016 6:16 am UTC

Well, sure, a space value in the negative polarity universe where red lights mean "go" and you have an evil doppelganger with a goatee.
So much depends upon a red wheel barrow (>= XXII) but it is not going to be installed.

she / her / her

rmsgrey
Posts: 3354
Joined: Wed Nov 16, 2011 6:35 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby rmsgrey » Fri Mar 25, 2016 3:45 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
orthogon wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:is an imaginary time just a place

:) Brilliant. Though as I understand it, it's more that Special Relativity makes more sense if you assume that time is imaginary.

Yeah, that's the joke, because an imaginary number times an imaginary number is a real number, so if time values are already imaginary space values, an imaginary time value would just be a space value again.


Or a distance value - space values may have 3 co-ordinates...

PracticalM
Posts: 47
Joined: Wed Mar 20, 2013 10:42 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby PracticalM » Fri Mar 25, 2016 6:50 pm UTC

AveSharia wrote:I once did quite a bit of research on my own time trying to figure out how professional project managers combat Hofstadter's Law, thinking "Well hell, if it's common enough to have a name, there must be a solution, right?" It's a deep, dark rabbit hole that involves endless exercise in planning and feigned empiricism to obfuscate the fact that, no, nobody has any fucking clue how to overcome it.


Estimates are always a problem. Usually because estimates are at best 50% confidence. When project managers take the 90% confidence estimates to the client or the executives, no one wants to hear them.

Critical chain techniques attempt to stop managing tasks and instead manage the buffer of tasks.
Stop worrying about task duration and focus on the resources available to complete tasks.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_ ... management

AveSharia
Posts: 5
Joined: Mon Jan 04, 2016 9:40 pm UTC

Re: 1658: "Estimating Time"

Postby AveSharia » Thu Mar 31, 2016 6:08 pm UTC

PracticalM wrote:
AveSharia wrote:Critical chain techniques attempt to stop managing tasks and instead manage the buffer of tasks.
Stop worrying about task duration and focus on the resources available to complete tasks.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_ ... management


"Some project managers feel that the earned value management technique is misleading, because it does not distinguish progress on the project constraint (i.e., on the critical chain) from progress on non-constraints (i.e., on other paths)."

Huh. I've been intuitively compensating for this by assigning/focusing on paths of my project network that form necessary resources of our deliverables first, before working on, or telling others to work on, "the meat" of the project.

OTOH:

"With no slack in the duration of individual tasks, resources are encouraged to focus on the task at hand to complete it and hand it off to the next person or group. The objective here is to eliminate bad multitasking."

...yeah there's no way this would fly in my line of work. We get change orders probably every week, and side-projects probably once every three weeks, both of which blow out all of our target dates. Actually, "bad multitasking" should be the by-line of my firm.


Return to “Individual XKCD Comic Threads”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Old Bruce and 27 guests