Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Define "Effort" in context of Project Schedules

I'm re-reading Chapter 8: Estimation in my copy of "Rapid Development" to try to find the defenition of "effort"

McConnel doesn't clearly _define_ "effort" anywhere in the book.

People often state that different solutions to the same problem may require MORE time, but require LESS effort!.  How is that possible? 

How can something that takes MORE time require LESS effort?

Heston Holtmann
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

effort * time * ingenuity = output

a dumb guy with a lot of time and effort can equal a brilliant guy who does something quickly and easily.

3 * 3 * 1 = 9
1 * 1 * 9 = 9

You can also be brilliant and lazy and take a lot of time to do something.

0.5 * 2 * 18 = 9

This is total bullcrap off the top of my head here, but I bet I could write a best seller around it. I'll call it... Seven Sigma.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

0.5 * 2 * 18 = 9

should read

0.5 * 2 * 9 = 9
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

a series of actions advancing a principle or tending toward a particular end

So then I would say, "less actions=less effort"?

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

I'm afraid I've not read that book.

What context does he use the word in where it's meaning is unclear? I can not think of one off of the top of my head.

Mike Swieton
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

This is why I made the switch from developer to manager of developers: by commanding others, I do things with a lot less of my own effort. :)

It may sound tongue-in-cheek, but it's true. Also, my developers like me and tell my I'm one of the best managers they ever worked with.

This happens because I was a developer and I know what it's like to be in the trenches.

Unfortunately, after programming for several years, I lost my patience for little details. Programming is a job where a lot of small details have to be taken into account, and each little detail and line of code has to work correctly.

I'm not a developer anymore. I'm a manager now.

I consider management to be something like those strategy games where you have to collect lumber, mine for gold, maintain an army, fight like hell, build a city, etc. :)

I don't like this kind of games, but they are a good metaphor for the work of a manager.

So - you want to get a lot more done with a lot less effort from your part? Become a manager!

And when you become a manager, strive to be an excellent manager and really work hard on your projects. Both your boss and your developers will love you for it.

This is why I consider this to be an extremely rewarding job.

Please excuse my poor English - it is not my native language.

John K.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

You are correct, he does not define completely.  Although, you could send him an email for clarification.

We use a two fold definition of effort hours and duration.  Hours is how long a task will take to complete.  For example 20 hours.  Duration, is the range the completion can occur within.  For example 3 to 5 days.

This is easier seen in a non-IT example: Painting.  It may take you 4 hours to paint a room or 8 hours to prime and paint it.  However, the duration would be 2 to 2.5 days. 
Day 1 - tape and prime.  At this point, nothing happens, with regards to painting the room, until the primer dries.  Day 2 - base coat.  Again, nothing happens until the paint dries.  Then remove the tape, clean up the edges, etc. 

An IT example: Install and configure a new server.  Day 1 you order the server.  It does not matter that the task only took an hour to complete.  The duration is going to be three weeks. 

Using this approach avoids overzealous project managers and developers from using the hours elsewhere and saying "80 hours, that can be done in two weeks."  The reorganizing a schedule around the 80 hours, instead of the real  20 days.

Mike Gamerland
Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Mike: a stunningly concise explanation.

Here are another coupel of examples.
Am I on the right track?

You  work 16 hours a day for three days and get the software out.

Time = 3 days
Effort = 48 manhours

Alternabively you only work the standard eiight hours but bring it out in five days because you are more efficient.
Time = 5 days
Effort = 40 manhours

The seocnd will also probably produce fewer bugs and save effort later on at testing.

Or you throw resourcesat something by hiring or transferring new staff so it ships in a shorter time. Because of the overhead involved in cimmunicating with larger teams the total effort (number of man hours needed to complete the task) goes up by 50% or more, but it still ships much sooner that it would otherwise.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, June 19, 2003

Looks like Stephen has effectivly answered my question with his example of something taking longer in duration (time) but requiring less effort (manhours).

Thanks for all the replies

Heston Holtmann
Thursday, June 19, 2003

Mike Gamerland,

I'd argue that time and duration are the same thing.  Well, there is no argument.  They *are* the same thing.

The problem with your example is that you don't count things that are part of the process of painting as painting.  I'd argue that an accurate schedule would include adding primer and waiting for paint and primer to dry, even though you aren't physically brushing a surface with paint in these steps. 

This is why software schedules fail so much.  Yeah it may take X hours to physically type at the keyboard, but the reality is there are Y additional hours for testing/debugging/configuring environement/etc.  You're not accounting for everything it *really* takes to do the job.  Your system shoves this kind of stuff under the "duration" header, which is OK since it's at least taken into account.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Effort = Resources * Time

no one special
Thursday, June 19, 2003

that sounds as if 'effort' boils down to someones opinion/subjective assessment.

why not take an indirect measure - 'learning' i.e. is the person in question able to learn from past mistakes? In order to learn something, a person has to be involved/display some degree of effort.

(wow, that is very scientific - the concept even draws on precedents and terminology from AI)

- of course, that would mean the organisation is allowing for some degree of experimentation (???)

Michael Moser
Thursday, June 19, 2003

I thought we defined effort as man-hours and were pretty happy with that definition. (we being the guy who started this thread).
Friday, June 20, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home