Why you suck at estimating – a lesson in psychology

muonlab » Why you suck at estimating – a lesson in psychology.

Estimation is often the programmer’s bane of existence. It’s the worst part of any project for any of us, and it’s something we’ve all been burned by at some point.

I often try to glean insight from other industries that deal with the same situation. The de facto analogy is that of a car. We often correlate our explanations with car buying, car selling, car building, or car fixing when it comes to Web projects. We do that because it’s a baseline for people, many have done it and if they haven’t they at least understand the concept of a car and more-or-less how it’s built.

Mechanics though, need to estimate how much something is going to cost to fix when they don’t really know a definitive problem. Yet we all go to a shop feeling somewhat entitled to a price before they even open the hood. That puts a lot of pressure on and requires the mechanic strategically handle the process as a whole.

We’ve got to deal with the same things, it’s interesting to read about psychological research that could likely have an effect on our estimation process entirely.