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The Project-Scheduling System Is Stupid, So Outsmart It!

  • By Paul Kimmel
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Rules Every Sandbagger Should Know

To make it easy for you to remember because you already have enough to worry about, I have consolidated the rules every sandbagger should know into a few simple statements:

  1. I want to thrill and please my customers and bosses (but not at the cost of my own sanity).
  2. I will never make my customer a guinea pig. (It isn't nice to turn people into rodents.)
  3. I will never promise what I don't already have. (And, I will promise to deliver next week what I have today.)
  4. I know that perfection is the public face of a lot of hard work. (And, I will never let them see me sweat.)
  5. Hardware engineers can hide a lot of ugly solder with a nice polyethylene cover, and I promise to hide my ugly code with a nice user interface.

Finally, Proper Estimating Techniques

No one works an eight-hour day. Even if you are working a hundred hours a week—I hope you get paid by the hour, double overtime, and have an equity position—you don't work an eight-hour day.

Everyone makes estimates based on an eight-hour day, yet no one works an eight-hour day. Productivity studies, my own observations, and common sense indicate that people work much less than eight hours per day. So, why do we make estimates based on an eight-hour day? We shouldn't, and now that you are a super sandbagging hero, you know better.

The average day includes trips to the bathroom, pointless meetings, lunch, smoke breaks, trips to the water cooler, e-mail, phone calls, surfing the Web, and all of the other things that keep one sane. People coast over coffee in the morning—that's why there are newspapers in the can. People coast back from lunch, and they shoot the breeze as five o'clock approaches, as the days get sunny, or just because it's Friday. And of course, there are martini lunches and Monday hangovers that kill productivity too.

Rather than condemn anyone for being human, accept your nature. Embrace it, in fact. As part of embracing our humanity, let's accept its impact on our productivity.

After more than a dozen years as a consultant, and having worked on many projects with people all over the world, I have discovered that the productivity impact is precisely 2.6. How it works is that one should make his or her personal best estimates and then multiply these estimates by 2.6. If, as an industry group, we do this, more projects will be on time and on budget. It is our insistence that eight-hour days exist that causes all of the missed deadlines.

Finally, never tell any pointy-headed persons about the 2.6 estimating factor. The average pointy-headed nincompoop will truly believe they can bully you into not flirting with your wife over IM and that constipation is good for you.

Sandbagging Is the Reasonable Solution

George Bernard Shaw said that the reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man. What Shaw forgot is that unreasonable men get fired and this makes it hard to pay the mortgage. Businesses depend on reasonable men and can be quite intolerant of Shaw-men.

If you want to win and keep your sanity, sandbag a little. If you are feeling unreasonable, write an article and use a pseudonym.


Paul Kimmel is the VB Today columnist for codeguru.com and developer.com and has written several books on object-oriented programming, including the recently released Visual Basic .NET Power Coding from Addison-Wesley and the upcoming Excel VBA 2003: Programmer's Reference from Wrox Press. He is the chief architect for Software Conceptions and is available to help design and build your next application.

The Lansing, Michigan area has started a new .NET Users Group. A well-run group offers great learning and networking opportunities and occasionally some free pizza and door prizes. Contact me at pkimmel@softconcepts.com if you live in mid-Michigan and are interested in participating.

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This article was originally published on August 2, 2004

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