Turkey Trotting and Estimating

AApparently I am going to run the Turkey Trot this year on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a 5k run, nothing to write home about but I’m scared. Why? Because I am not a runner. I can hardly run around the block without wanting to die. So, to prepare for this torturous event I am going to start training tonight. Yep, that’s over two months in advance.

Apparently I also have to estimate each activity I identified in my wedding work breakdown structure a few weeks ago in order to know how much effort I am going to need to put into planning my wedding. That’s 116 activities. That’s a lot of estimating.

Estimating how long it is going to take me to train for the Turkey Trot is a lot like estimating the effort of planning my wedding. I have no idea how long it’s going to take because I have never done either one before.

This scenario is not uncommon to project management. The reason we have to estimate is because we don’t know how long a project is going to take. There are many techniques in which to estimate effort: weighted average, expert judgment, Delphi (extracts and summarizes the knowledge of a group of experts to arrive at an agreed upon estimate), historical (uses information from similar previous projects), parametric models (uses published data and a mathematical model) …etc.

Since I am my own wedding planner I don’t have expert judgment to rely on, I don’t have a group of experts to discuss with, and I don’t have historical data from previous projects. I may have access to published data on the internet but I don’t know about the mathematical portion of parametric models. So that leaves me with the weighted average technique. Which actually makes the most sense because it takes the best case, worst case, and most likely scenarios for each activity, computes them in a formula, and pops out an expected effort.

Here’s the formula:

E = Optimistic + (4 x Most Likely) + Pessimistic

How I Did It

I was not looking forward to taking my 116 activities, coming up with three numbers for each, and calculating the expected effort. Thank goodness I was able to take my wedding skills matrix, copy the table, and paste it into a Google Spreadsheet. Then I added columns for “Optimistic Effort”, “Pessimistic Effort”, “Most Likely Effort”, and “Weighted Average”. It looked something like this (numbers are in hours):



Optimistic Effort

Pessimistic Effort

Most Likely Effort

Weighted Average

Design Save the Dates Graphic Designer 5 10 6


Stuff and Address Save the Dates Wedding Planner and Groom
2 1.7
Design Invitations Graphic Designer 10 20 12


 Stuff and Address Invitations Wedding Planner and Groom
8 6 2.7


The graphic design activities were the only ones I didn’t have to pull numbers out of my a** for. The rest were purely a shot in the dark. My brilliant fiancé, Justin was able to add in a formula in the “Weighted Average” column so I didn’t have to do calculation by hand for ever activity. Since I had no idea how to create this formula, I have created a template based on my estimated effort spreadsheet for you (my readers) to use. I will spare you the grief of even posting a link to my completed estimated effort spreadsheet; I know it’s not light reading.

When I added up my weighted average column I came up with quite a large number: 705 hours. Yikes. That means I need to put 20 hours per week into planning my wedding if I want to have everything done by May 27, 2012. It looks like I have a lot more work ahead of me than I initially thought.

Just in case you were wondering, I’m figuring that training for the Turkey Trot will take me somewhere between the amount of time it takes to train for a marathon (16 weeks – pessimistic) and the time it takes for someone in shape to train for a 5k (8 weeks – optimistic). I’m guessing the most likely effort will be 12 weeks so my weighted average is 12 weeks. That’s why I made Justin promise we would go for a run tonight after work!

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