You have got to stop being so weak. You need to stand your ground. I’m tired of telling everyone this over and over. The fear that you have of telling your customer/boss, “No,” needs to be squished forever. Stop giving me excuses on why the heck you can’t tell them no. There are a lot of reasons to be scared to say that little word, but there are a lot more reasons you need to make sure that you use it.
More often than not this ability to say “No” is more important when it comes to estimations or feature priorities. When was the last time you were asked to lower and estimate or build a feature when the current structure really should be refactored first? Never mind, don’t answer that. You are probably to afraid of losing your job if you tell me any way. I’ll just assume it has happened within recent memory.
What did you want to say? What did you say? Did it end up better or worse? I’m guessing that ultimately it didn’t end up making your product better if you went ahead and changed your “no” into “yes.” Let me guess that the conversation went something like this:
You: That is going to take at least 8 story points.
Manager: That just isn’t going to work. I think you can do it faster than that. How about 4 story points?
You: This is a little complicated and we’ve got x and y that really need to get fixed with this…
Manager: Your a really bright guy and I think you can figure out how to get it done in 4.
You notice that little tactic about how smart you are. You fell for that? Wow, We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ll save the verbal ego trick detector for another day. Today we are going to focus on the possible outcomes of this situation.
Wow, now you are exhausted, but at least we are past that ugly week. I bet you can’t go another week like that. You just won’t be able to make it. Although you are stuck doing this over and over now. The project manager thinks that now your first estimate was padded a bunch and that all you need is the proper motivation to get it done faster. He saw you working your butt off, but he didn’t see it all because unfortunately he left work 4 hours earlier than you. Good thing he knows that you just need the right push. Your manager no longer trusts your estimates. I hope trust isn’t important to your next raise.
You look fantastic on demo day. You got the work done on time and flew through the demo. The customer was thrilled and had you deploy it. You knew you cut corners to get it out, but you are hoping it can stand up for at least a week. Unfortunately there is a new priority and you probably aren’t going to have the time to go back and fix everything. You also have bug reports coming in on what you did write. You aren’t looking quite as smart to that manager as you did last week. I hope that you can get everything fixed and the next feature done so that you can get your head above water again. I guess you are going to be putting in some overtime this week. Even with everything breaking your estimates still aren’t trusted and neither is your ability to produce quality software.
The manager throws you under the bus for giving an estimate that was obviously too low. You try to remind her that the original estimate was double what she asked you to make it. She doesn’t want to hear your excuses and doesn’t remember I told you so. All she knows is that she can’t trust your estimates and now she is cleaning up behind your missed deadline. I really hope that your review isn’t for a while. Maybe you can work extra hours this week to show your dedication to getting this done.
Your estimate was dead on. You got everything done that they wanted, but they had to push it out a few days for the estimate. The demo is amazing and the feature is working perfectly in production. You look like a person who knows what they’re talking about. Congratulations you built some level of trust.
You’ve delighted the manager. He finds that even though you told him it would take a little longer to do you dedicated yourself to getting it done sooner than later. The customers where delighted to get an early play with it before deployment to production. They even had a little feedback and you were able to catch a bug before it went out the door. You are a hero, and you overheard them talking about getting you an extra raise for your hard work.
Well you didn’t get it out so early that you could deliver it ahead of schedule, but you bought yourself a few hours and took it as a chance to do some small refactoring on a yesterday you transgression (tech debt). You get to pat yourself on the back and next estimates are going to be smaller because of that refactoring. Hopefully you got done early enough to grab a beer with your manager. He is so happy with your work that he provides dinner and drinks. You even get to find out about some new upcoming projects that he thinks you might enjoy being the tech lead on.
If you want to build trust you need to stick to what you say.
Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. - Mathew 5:37