Everything is completed by performing a series of tasks. To plan, estimate, forecast, etc. we most often predict the tasks we’ll perform to get the desired outcome, then sequence them, assign resources, and guess at a duration for each. In this model – we’re predicting the future and how we’ll get there. And for anyone who’s done it—or read about it—that’s a terrific way to fail. Why we almost always achieve the desired outcome, how we get there (and how long it takes) is vastly different from what we had planned. Again, this is because we can’t know unknowns (timing), time doesn’t scale, and we can’t control time (it’s an absolute).
A few days ago I wrote about the difficulties of software estimation. I’m on a personal vendetta to improve on this lacking area of the industry, but first…
REMOVING THE FOOT FROM MY MOUTH
My debut to the software world was about seven months ago. Prior, the projects I managed had tangible assets: prints, videos, landscapes, structures, etc. Obviously in the software world there are no longer physical structures or tangible assets. This alone has been the most difficult hurdle to deal with… not because you can’t ‘see’ the project; but because the project idea is no longer bound by constraints.
If there’s one metric that used more than any other, it’s time. Time is unique in that we all have a limited and finite amount. You can’t make more time, stockpile it, refund it, or spend it faster. Time is priceless.
Its usefulness as a metric is convenient because it’s constant. One hour today is the same thing as one hour tomorrow. Costs, productivity, effort, etc. are driven from time based metrics and used to forecast spans of time (months, years, decades). We use time to plan—and thus—we use time to watch and control the present; as well as, benchmark the future and past.
As a project manager, I’m always dealing with time. And as a project manager, I’ve realized that while time is a constant in the sense of measuring the void of space; it is not a human constant. Businesses are nothing more than a group of humans and thus susceptible to all things humans are susceptible to. And in lies the focus of this aside—I think we (from a business sense) have misinterpreted how to use time. Time is not the best way to bill, pay, measure, quote, plan, manage, or lead. My reasoning for time being a poor metric I’ve broken into three parts; timing, scalability, and control. What follows is then my suggestion on how we move forward.
I just finished Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek. This is easily one of the best and most important books I’ve ever read. Simon makes sense of the observations you’ve already made. It isn’t a business or management book; it’s a life book–a book about community and making the world a better place. Favorite highlights below…
Building trust requires nothing more than telling the truth.
Reply-all. Fuck me. I’ll give away my first born to both unsubscribe from the messages and block the ability on those sent.
Every year I get older the faster the years go by and the harder it is to remember it all. I remember back when my allowance was kept in drawer I couldn’t reach and adults […]
[…] It’s this blindness and forgetfulness and presenteism that has the world in the state it’s in. Freakonomics had a series on whether or not college is worth the costs (in every sense of the […]
I started my first blog begrudgingly my senior year of college for a creative writing class. Halfway through my semester I’d created a second that had four times the posts; and my hard drive double that in unpublished posts. After the class my “second” blog continued to run for years until recently when I shut it down and created this one. I went through 20 years of the government-run child farms (read: school system) before I realized that I enjoy writing.
Between my junior and senior year of college I found myself unemployed and living in my brother’s study on a pullout couch. I’d sold everything, packed my car and driven west about a year earlier. My worldly possession fit into a cargo box on the top of a station wagon and included a duffel bag of clothes, camping gear, and a milk crate full of books for when I decided to go back to school. After a discouraging day of job hunting I plunked down on the couch with my head in my hands. I looked up, grabbed the purple hardbound book at the top of the milk crate and started reading. A couple of hours later I’d finished Purple Cow and found an author I idolize to this day, Seth Godin.
The next day I got a library card. A month later I’d read every book by Seth and moved on to Guy Kawasaki, Malcolm Gladwell, Tony Hsieh, Steven Pressfield, Ken Robinson, Dan Pink, and many, many others. Before the next quarter I was filled with ambition and fond of my new-found interest… one I hadn’t realized through 19 years of school.
The point in all this is not the modern education system. I’ll expand on that post later. No this post is about how I got to where I am and the lessons I’ve learned–and more importantly those lessons I’ve realized.
In a graduation speech George Saunder’s said:
Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk–dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).