Why do projects always take longer than expected?

It’s the unplanned gotchas that get you. In my last project I needed to make 10 brass catenary poles for my HO Scale Shinkansen photo module. Because nobody made those poles I needed to turn them on my lathe. for that I needed to make a special tool. I spent two months making my first iteration of the tool only to find out it couldn’t work. Blog post to come when I make a new tool that does the job.


Think of an important project you are working on that you expect to complete sometime in the next few weeks or months.

*Now try to make your most accurate estimate of exactly when you think that project will be completed.

*Now estimate when it will be complete in the best case scenario, if everything went as well as possible.

*Do the same for the worst case scenario, if everything went as poorly as possible.


All done? I want to make a bet with you. I bet that you won’t finish that project until after your worst case scenario estimate.

Why so pessimistic? It’s called the planning fallacy and it affects everyone, especially me. People tend to make overly optimistic predictions of how long things take to do. And despite the number of times this happens throughout our lives we still fail to adjust future predictions to account for…

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One comment

  1. EngineerDog.com · May 9, 2015

    Hofstadter’s Law: “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”


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