Alex Weinstein
On Growth, Product, and Leadership
A Sense of Urgency
clock that shows whatever

I’ve had a curios revelation in the past few days. My CEO, Ben Elowitz, said something really curious: the granularity of your estimates has a GIGANTIC effect on the effectiveness of the organization. If you take a task, and commit to getting it done by next week, you’re essentially setting a WEEK as an atomic unit of time. If it’s behind by a day – oops. A day seems so insignificant comparing to the week that you allotted for it. Oh well, late by a day. It’s only 10-15% over the time allotted for it. No big deal, right?…

Even worse, if you commit to get something done by “the next meeting of this group,” you’re about to experience  Parkinson’s Law – people tend to do stuff at the very last moment before it’s due – it’s only natural and efficient:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

If instead, you commit to getting it done by Tuesday 1pm – refusing to be bound by the timeline of meetings, instead giving a precise estimate in terms of hours of work – you’re in a much better shape from the get go. Tasks end up taking less time – all because you’ve framed the timeline differently.

Next time you’re thinking about whether to estimate dev work in days or hours, think about this.