Predicting the Unpredictable
Minimum price
Suggested price

Predicting the Unpredictable

Pragmatic Approaches to Estimating Project Schedule or Cost

About the Book

If you have trouble estimating cost or schedule for your projects, you are not alone. The question is this: who wants the estimate and why?

You might be able to use different words for your estimate. You might be able to report your estimate in a way that helps your managers realize the uncertainty of the estimate. Maybe you just need the team who’s doing the work to estimate.

Learn practical and pragmatic ways to estimate schedule or cost for your projects. Learn why most estimates are wrong, and how you can create some sanity about your estimates. Learn ways to present your estimates so people will accept them. And, when your estimate is wrong, learn what you can do.

  • Share this book

  • Categories

    • Project Management
    • Agile
    • Non-Fiction
    • Management
  • Feedback

    Email the Author(s)

About the Author

Johanna Rothman
Johanna Rothman

Johanna Rothman, known as the “Pragmatic Manager,” offers frank advice for your tough problems. She helps leaders and teams do reasonable things that work. Equipped with that knowledge, they can then decide how to adapt their product development.

With her trademark practicality and humor, Johanna is the author of 20 books and hundreds of articles. Find the Pragmatic Manager, a monthly email newsletter, and her blogs at and

She is the author of these books:

In addition, she is a contributor to:

For fiction:

Bundles that include this book

Bought separately
Minimum price
Suggested price

Table of Contents

    • Acknowledgements
    • 1. Introduction
      • 1.1 Estimates Are Guesses or Predictions
      • 1.2 Estimates Change
      • 1.3 Estimates Expire
    • 2. What Estimates Are
      • 2.1 Provide an Accurate but Not Precise Estimate
    • 3. Why Do We Estimate Anyway?
      • 3.1 Why Do You Estimate?
      • 3.2 Ask This Question Before You Estimate
    • 4. Software is Learning, Not Construction
      • 4.1 Inch-Pebbles or Small Stories Show Progress
      • 4.2 Learn With Spikes
    • 5. Think About Estimation
      • 5.1 Estimating the Unknown: Dates or Budgets
      • 5.2 Determine Your Degrees of Freedom
      • 5.3 Insist on a Ranked Backlog
      • 5.4 The Team Doing the Work Provides the Estimate
    • 6. How to Estimate
      • 6.1 Your First Best Bet: Make Your Stories and Chunks Small
      • 6.2 Your Second Best Bet: SWAG and Refine
      • 6.3 Collect Data
      • 6.4 When You Have a Decreed Date
      • 6.5 Wrap Up
      • 6.6 Estimating a Program
      • 6.7 Beware of These Program Estimation Traps
    • 7. Rolling Wave Planning
      • 7.1 Learn as the Project Proceeds
    • 8. There Is No Correct Estimation Model
      • 8.1 We Invent; We Don’t Repeat
    • 9. But I Need to Know When the Project Will Be Done
      • 9.1 What You Can Say to Managers Who Think They Need to Know
    • 10. NoEstimate or Do Your Estimates Provide Value?
    • 11. Use All Four Parts of Project Estimation
      • 11.1 Part 1: Create an Initial Estimate
      • 11.2 Part 2: Track Estimation Quality Factor to Understand the Project Estimate
      • 11.3 Part 3: Use EQF to Manage Project Concerns
      • 11.4 Part 4: Update Your Estimate as You Know More
    • 12. Show Your Status and Update Your Estimate
      • 12.1 Probabilistic Scheduling
    • 13. Refocusing: 90% Done Is Not Almost Done
    • 14. Future Fixes
      • 14.1 Plan Ahead
      • 14.2 Hindsight is 20-20
      • 14.3 Track Your Estimates
      • 14.4 Measure Bad Fixes
      • 14.5 Manage Your Buffers
      • 14.6 Incorporate Agility
  • Troubleshooting Your Estimation Problems
    • 15. Avoid Multitasking
    • 16. Avoid Student Syndrome
    • 17. Estimation Units Predict Schedule Slippage
    • 18. Edit Those Epics
    • 19. What You Can Do For Estimation
    • 20. Estimation Depends On…
    • 21. Estimating Testing Time
    • 22. Need to Learn More About the Work You’re Doing? Spike It!
      • 22.1 How Does a Spike Work?
      • 22.2 Spikes Are About Learning
      • 22.3 What Happens to the Code at the End of the Spike?
      • 22.4 “Use the Code As Is…”
      • 22.5 How Many People Were Involved in the Learning?
    • 23. Use Targets as Estimates
      • 23.1 How to Use Targets
      • 23.2 When the Target Is a Trap
    • 24. How to Avoid Three Big Estimation Traps
    • 25. Understanding Multitasking and the Cost of Delay on Estimation
    • 26. What You Know About Estimation Now
      • 26.1 Transition to an Agile Approach or an Incremental Approach for Your Projects
      • 26.2 Make Your Features Small
      • 26.3 Iterate on your Estimate
      • 26.4 Don’t Multitask
      • 26.5 Don’t Let Defects Dictate Your Estimate
      • 26.6 Final Thoughts
    • Glossary
    • References
    • More from Johanna

About the Publisher

This book is published on Leanpub by Practical Ink

Johanna Rothman's books on leanpub. Practical, frank, and often humorous tips you can put to work right now.

The Leanpub 60 Day 100% Happiness Guarantee

Within 60 days of purchase you can get a 100% refund on any Leanpub purchase, in two clicks.

Now, this is technically risky for us, since you'll have the book or course files either way. But we're so confident in our products and services, and in our authors and readers, that we're happy to offer a full money back guarantee for everything we sell.

You can only find out how good something is by trying it, and because of our 100% money back guarantee there's literally no risk to do so!

So, there's no reason not to click the Add to Cart button, is there?

See full terms...

80% Royalties. Earn $16 on a $20 book.

We pay 80% royalties. That's not a typo: you earn $16 on a $20 sale. If we sell 5000 non-refunded copies of your book or course for $20, you'll earn $80,000.

(Yes, some authors have already earned much more than that on Leanpub.)

In fact, authors have earnedover $13 millionwriting, publishing and selling on Leanpub.

Learn more about writing on Leanpub

Free Updates. DRM Free.

If you buy a Leanpub book, you get free updates for as long as the author updates the book! Many authors use Leanpub to publish their books in-progress, while they are writing them. All readers get free updates, regardless of when they bought the book or how much they paid (including free).

Most Leanpub books are available in PDF (for computers) and EPUB (for phones, tablets and Kindle). The formats that a book includes are shown at the top right corner of this page.

Finally, Leanpub books don't have any DRM copy-protection nonsense, so you can easily read them on any supported device.

Learn more about Leanpub's ebook formats and where to read them

Write and Publish on Leanpub

You can use Leanpub to easily write, publish and sell in-progress and completed ebooks and online courses!

Leanpub is a powerful platform for serious authors, combining a simple, elegant writing and publishing workflow with a store focused on selling in-progress ebooks.

Leanpub is a magical typewriter for authors: just write in plain text, and to publish your ebook, just click a button. (Or, if you are producing your ebook your own way, you can even upload your own PDF and/or EPUB files and then publish with one click!) It really is that easy.

Learn more about writing on Leanpub