Friday, October 17, 2008

Quick! Give Me An Estimate!

I'll see how short I can keep this one. If I don't try to keep it short, it might turn into a major rant and then I'd feel that I had to publish it as a book.

So there I am talking to a co-worker this morning and we're exchanging stories of management insanity. It's one of our favorite topics and virtually guaranteed to never run dry of source material. He tells me that he talked to the new big boss who wanted an estimate for some work that needed to be in production at the January deploy.

For those who may not be used to the way things work in Corporate America, let's revisit that one in slow motion so that you can admire the sheer talent required to ask a question of that nature with a straight face.

We're pretty used to being asked for estimates in the IS world. We're also used to having those estimates ignored, but that's another rant for another day, so the question doesn't seem out of the ordinary at first. The jaw-dropping display of audacity comes when the manager slips the answer they want on the end of the question. Did you notice that?

It must take a level of poker skill beyond the ability of mere mortals to construct a question that includes the only permitted answer. The asking of the question in the first place is only to give the programmer the momentary illusion that their opinion is valued and then the realization dawns that it doesn't matter what your estimate is, because there are only a finite number of weeks/days/hours between now and late January.

I don't think I've ever pulled off a trick like that and I'm pretty certain that I'd never want to. Even while I can recognize the immoral nature of the question, I must concede a certain initial grudging admiration for anyone who can pull it off. After that, I just settle back into my normal bitter and twisted cynicism for all things Corporate.

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