Leadership Failure At A Government-Sponsored Enterprise

What happened?

Some friends of mine work as programmers at a GSE. They got a new manager out of the Federal government who decided he wanted to apply project management methods. So, he told his programmers to estimate the time it would take to complete a project. Never having done this, the programmers were flummoxed. Eventually the manager relented.

What was the manager trying to accomplish?

The manager wanted to better manage his resources by knowing how much time his programmers would be spending on each project.

How could this have been done better?

  • The manager should have explained his objective.
  • After discussion with his programmers, he should have realized that they had never done this.
  • He should then have told them that he wanted estimates and did not expect them to be very accurate at first. However, over time, as the programmers gained experience, their estimates would become more accurate.
  • After running this process for a while, the manager could do analyses comparing estimated to actual programming times, to detect informative patterns. I suspect that he did not have this in mind.
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