The answer is 2 – 5 days!
I am working with a lot of project managers and team leaders and when they show me there project plans I see tasks that are half a day, a day and many times I see tasks that are more than a week.
I like to clarify a few points before I continue:
- When talking about tasks I talk about any type of task, for example tasks for testers, programmers, IT etc.
- There are tasks that are estimated to more than 5 days, these are high level tasks that will be divided later to smaller tasks. It is important NOT to give these tasks to the target person that will eventually do the work.
- The time frame that is mentioned in this post is a guideline and not a constraint, there are exceptions that should be not more than 5 to 10 percent of the total amount of tasks.
Lets start with looking at the minimum, why not giving tasks time estimations that are less than 2 days?
Lets look at an example of a very very short project, 30 days of work 5 people (It is more likely to be a part of a project)
- Using tasks that are estimated for half a day will give you up to 300 tasks. That is a lot to manage in a very short time frame.
- Lets look at each person that is assigned to these tasks, each person will get an average of 60 tasks in a time frame of 30 days, I would have freaking out getting this amount of tasks to do in 30 days.
- Lets not forget that all these tasks should be written, you will need to write 600 tasks, is your time worth nothing?
- Imagine the Gantt you get with 600 tasks all in 30 days timeframe.
- When working in this timeframes you don’t give any space to your workers, you are MICRO Managing.
After seeing why not to make such short estimations, why not giving tasks time estimations that are longer than 5 days?
- Tasks that are longer than 5 days will be to high level and will open a window for misunderstandings.
- Tasks that are so long are to risky, you can have a delay that will be shown to late.
- There is a bigger risk for wrong time estimations for tasks that are longer than 5 days.
In order to see that you can do a simple exercise, see how many times you change the time estimations for your high level tasks when planning the detailed tasks. Most cases you will find out that you change it a lot.
We have talked about time frames for tasks and sow a few reasons for why not estimate tasks for less than 2 days and why not estimate tasks for longer than 5 days.
The reasons that I have mentioned here are few of many reasons, if you think of reasons that supports or against this recommendation that were not mentioned in this post, please share…