What if developers are [cheating] giving you the unreasonably high estimates?

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That is seems to be the PMs nightmare – your developers are lying to you when they provide you the estimates. For the 1-hour task they give you 1-week estimation and spend the whole week watching youtube videos with cats. HAHAHAHA!!!

Are you already scared to death?

It also should be a rather common problem, as I often get such a question during the job interview. “Galina, what would you do if developer gives you the unrealistic estimations?”.  They ask me and wait for some one-for-all-cases answer. Probably they expect me to say something like “I will double check all the estimates myself/with the other developer”.  So I will be a kind of the PM auditor. And then they are definitely ready to ask – “And what if the other developer lies to you too”? Seems to be one global developer’s conspiracy. What one small PM can do against that?

My honest answer to all of that is: “I’ll resign ASAP, as I killed that team and should not do any more harm. Then I ‘ll walk outside the office and perform seppuku”.
I think that this question can be the “flag” for the organization I would not like to work in. If they really mean that the developer lying to me is the only problem in such a situation. When I start talking about trust – they just smile and say that I am not serious.

The real source of the PM’s fear of deceivers is the lack of trust in the team or in the company in general. As for me, I don’t know how i can work with people I cant’t trust. But a lot of people work such way and think that this is ok. They need just check everyone, and double check, set boundaries, rules and instructions. And everything will go according to the plan.

I should say that I NEVER had an issue with the deliberately unrealistic estimations which caused some losses to the company. I had issues with demotivated developers, who worked “too slow” and the best idea of their manager was to punish them. I had issues with developer sabotage, with fostered by autocratic manager developer’s immaturity, confronting groups inside the team, informal leader fighting with the formal one and much more different cases. But not developer’s lying to me. Yes, they were lying. But it was not the REAL issue)

I can’t understand why managers in IT still think they work at a plant. Where everyone should be pushed to start working and controlled very strictly. Sometimes I even think that is because they change by themselves!

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I noticed that the who suspect everyone around them of some fault usually have it in themselves. They can’t imagine other people are different. So if your boss thinks that you are lazy and cheat him all the time… That you are reading facebook all the day instead of writing code… guess what?

So, when PM feels the developers are lying to him about estimations:

  • He is not trusting the team. Probably they are not trusting him. And they don’t respect him.
  • PM does not live the one life with the team. He is sitting in the other room, he spends with them not much time each day. I saw so PMs spending less that 10% of their time with the team, while even sitting close to them! He knows nothing about them.
  • Work is just a work for the developers. With boring tasks, boss being the idiot and stupid corporate rules. I am not saying there should not be the work-life balance ( I am not crazy about the work too)). But it should be something more than just going to the office every day. Otherwise, what are you doing here?
  • Deadlines are far from being reasonable. Developers know that and try to “get some time” by faking the estimations. Sometimes there can be the following: Developers double the estimation because they know manager will cut it 🙂 And manager cuts it. Everyone is happy. Isn’t it stupid?
  • PM does not know how to work with metrics, statistics and can’t make any predictions.
  • PM is not a hard-worked himself.

If there is no trust – there is no team

A team without trust isn’t really a team: it’s just a group of individuals, just working together. Their progress is often disappointing.
Trust is essential to an effective team, because it provides a sense of safety. When your team members feel safe with each other, they feel comfortable to open up, take appropriate risks, and expose vulnerabilities.

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Without trust there’s less innovation, collaboration, creative thinking, and productivity, and people spend their time protecting themselves and their interests – this is time that should be spent helping the group attain its goals.

I think the question of “cheating” is connected with the one of the most arguable topic about PMs in IT – “How technical should a Project Manager be?”, because “unrealistic estimations” from the developers is one of the most common pros for technical PMs. I’ll write my next post about this topic. As usual – there is no right answer 🙂

5 thoughts on “What if developers are [cheating] giving you the unreasonably high estimates?

  1. We’re currently seriously exploring the #noestimates route in both internal and client-facing projects. It’s not easy, but then again estimation doesn’t bring any value to the project..

    1. Wow, I would like to read about your experience! I succeded to implement the no estimates only in several separate projects but was never supported by the other PMs to implement that over the whole company. I think it is tightly connected with the company culture. For the last 2 month I come across so many things connected to company culture that I start thinking it is the key thing)

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