Chapter 2. The truth about schedules

People tend to be late. It might be only a few minutes, or just a couple of times a week, but people are often behind on their daily schedules. (However, because denial is another great skill humans have, I’ll understand if you refuse to admit this applies to you.) High school students are late for class, adults are late for meetings at work, and friends arrive 10 minutes late at the bar for drinks. We believe that being on time isn’t about targeting a specific moment but instead is about being within a range of moments. And for some that range is wider than for others. Restaurant hosts are an interesting example. They claim a table will be ready soon,[7] but often we’re made to wait much longer than they said it would be. It’s these experiences of delayed schedules, being put on hold on the telephone, or waiting in the doctor’s office, that have made us cynical about schedules—we have so much experience with life not happening on time.

It shouldn’t be a surprise then that so many projects come in late. Most of us arrive at the task of scheduling projects with a poor track record for delivering or receiving things on time. We tend to estimate based on weak assumptions, predict outcomes based on the best possible circumstances, and—given our prior experiences—simultaneously avoid placing confidence in schedules we see or create. Why we do this, how it impacts project schedules, and what can be done to avoid these problems is ...

Get Making Things Happen now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.