May 29, 2004 spout

You Can Actually Schedule Inch-Pebbles

I haven’t read Coder To Developer, but I love the term that secretGeek has pulled from it: Inch-Pebbles.” When I was running DevelopMentor Software I learned to schedule from my then-mentor John Robbins, who learned it at NuMega (of BoundsChecker fame).

John’s insight was that nobody can look at a software release or even a feature and come up with an accurate schedule. Instead, they hold up their thumb in the wind and say, Hmmm… Two weeks.” Of course, it’s never anywhere close to that. However, if you break something down into tasks of 1-2 days, aka inch-pebbles,” those can be accurately estimated and then rolled up into how long each feature and then each mile-stone will actually take (“What? Three months?!? I had no idea…“). Once I learned how to schedule debugging time (rule of thumb: as long as coding time), we were able to schedule our software to w/in a week or two (although John, to show off, would pad a little and pick the day and time and deliver the golden master CD with balloons, champagne and marching band music : ).

At the time, we didn’t have a name for the granularity that could be accurately scheduled and, since I haven’t read Mike’s book, I don’t know how he defines the term inch-pebble,” but from now on, that’s what I’m going to call it and if that’s different from what Mike called it, well, then he’ll just have to update his definition in his next edition. : )