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Guessing Games

…women, children and revolutionists hate irony, which is the negation of all saving instincts, of all faith, of all devotion, all action.’ Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes (From a WL Webb article on Milan Kundera).

Estimation Games and Software Development

Boss: Hi, Mary. How long do you think it will take to add some additional customer enquiry screens to the Aardvark System?

Here the boss or client is being very nice almost friendly.

Mary : Gee ….. I guess about 6 weeks or so.

Boss : WHAAAT!!!! That long!!! You’re joking right?

# This hostile reaction by the boss is often supported by various negative body language signs such as noisy sucking-in of breath, furrowed forehead, hand slapping head, falling off the chair, etc.

Mary : Oh! Sorry. It could be done perhaps in 4 weeks.
# Here the analyst/programmer victim is now on the defensive and is trying to calm down their boss

Boss : 4 WEEKS??!??!? I don’t know how XX is going to take that when they hear it’s going to be 4 weeks.
# The invocation of XX [who is usually a very important person] is a classic use of the X Plus Game – see later.

Mary : Well, let me think ….. OK, I’ll do it in 3 weeks.

Boss : Great. I’ll let XX know.

The boss has won the game.

Now the serious problem with this game is that it is a brilliant example of Win/Lose. The reality is that the boss has already promised the client XX that the enhancement will be done in 3 weeks but the power of the game is to get the project manager or victim to guess the bosses estimate and then say the estimate [preferably in the presence of witnesses such as other team members]. Notice, it was Mary who said 3 weeks not the boss.

In effect, if the estimate is wrong then Mary is to blame as she said it. The boss who made the bad estimate is politically “in the clear” . This is a truly excellent game for bosses.

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