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Duration (Days) FIGURE 22-3. Observed duration of a task during execution.

Most project managers know their ability to meet project goals is tied to each team member meeting his task deadlines. In project-driven companies where an individual's time is charged to the budget of the project, the project managers will do everything they can to hold people accountable for their estimates.

Depending on the level of accountability and the amount of tracking, individuals often work toward due dates. In project-driven companies where individuals' time is tracked, they will try to charge as much of their time as possible to billable projects. Therefore, even if they do finish a task much earlier than estimated, if they do not immediately have another billable project to move to, they often will prolong their task until the target date is reached or their estimated time is consumed.

As a result, even when individuals finish tasks early, it is not common to see them pass on their tasks early to the next resource who must work on it. In some organizations, you can witness early finishes in one or two departments, but rarely across the entire project.

Often, even when someone does finish and pass on a task early, the next resource is not flexible enough to start working on it immediately because he has other work to do. The extra protection from an early finish of one task is thus wasted.

Therefore, the observed duration of actual task times is a very different curve than a statistical analysis would lead a person to expect. The difference in the curve shown in Figure 22-3, as compared to Figure 22-2, is that it is much narrower. Also, the shortest duration is very close to the estimated duration. There is a much higher probability of finishing at the estimated duration or very close to it. This curve is explained by the practice of leaving enough room in an estimate to take contingencies into account, and not reporting early finishes on a task.

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