I'm drawing a blank on how to proceed here. How would you help a high-C peer through an uncertain process?

Specifically, this is a process for providing estimates to sales for technical services work. By its nature a sales estimate is looser; we do lots of them and they need to be quick. This gentleman is having a very difficult time dealing with the uncertainty. His trend is to delay, take more time, ask for more detail. He wants to do a full blown design every time. When pressed for an answer, he says "I can't estimate this, there isn't enough information." Eventually he gives an estimate, but always seems reluctant to do it.

I'm concerned (both for the company's process and for him) because he or his team must provide these estimates of their work to move forward. He is obviously uncomfortable making a guess, even an educated guess. No other team can do this work, but he is just not being that effective here.

I have suggested that he delagate this to a member of his team, but so far that hasn't been taken up on. My sense is that he believes the process is broken and therefore isn't going to let it out of his control.

Any thoughts on what I can do to help him deal with the uncertainty better?


kklogic's picture


Can you have this gentleman go back to some jobs that have been completed and compare his estimates to the actuals? If he's not hitting on them, have him revise the process until it's retrofitting perfectly. This will help him feel that he's doing as well as he can -- and frankly, it'll help your company create more accurate estimates.


bflynn's picture

Brilliant idea - that is what we will do in the future. Unfortunately, the time tracking hasn't been well kept in the past, so we don't have a history to draw from.

I've been told these quotes have rarely been way off in the past. If they are, then we adjust them when we start the actual project and do the actual designs.


philwhineray's picture

I have personal experience with this as a high C. I doubt historical evidence of my accuracy would help when looking at something new.

Since estimates are a trade off (how much time spent analysing versus the quality of the estimate) one approach which might help is to make the uncertainty explicit.

Thus the estimator is be allowed to assign a level of certainty to the estimate e.g. 3 weeks, about 85% chance of success. This will help alleviate the main fear - having a guess taken as hard fact.

The other benefit is that you can now directly trade-off the amount of time needed to estimate and the quality of the estimate, by asking for a lower quality estimate in less time.

lazerus's picture

1- Acknowledge his expertise, be sincere.
2- Let him know that the standard of perfection is not TOTALLY about the content, but about the turn around time.

MsSunshine's picture

I deal with software developers not wanting to make estimates without knowing everything almost every day. What I work with them on is the fact that it's all about taking calculated risks. I do the following:

1. Ask for the assessment and what risks there are for partial information.
2. Ask what the time to get more information on an area is and how much that would decrease the risk.
3. Talk to them about the point where I am willing to take the level of risk.

Technical people seem to deal well with that approach since I'm showing them the logic.

bflynn's picture

Thank you everyone, these are great thoughts.

My frustration is pretty high right now because this gentleman's actions are impacting our service levels. I've been hesitating with peer feedback because I'm not in the right place for it - my frustration has to be showing and I'm sure its going to come out of my mouth poorly.

I will work on getting to right place for feedback. I hope on Tuesday. Happy Memorial Day everyone.