Calculus is the most powerful weapon of thought yet devised by the wit of man - W. B. Smith Infinitesimal Analysis
In the same book Burn Math Class and Reinvent Mathematics for Yourself, there is a joke that is applicable to the topic of this blog.
As a psychology experiment, a mathematician is placed in a room with a sink, a cooking pot, and a stove. He is asked to boil a pot of water. He takes the empty pot, fills it with water from the sink, set it on the stove, and turn it on. Next he is led into a room with a sink, and a pot full of water, and a stove. Again he is asked to boil a pot of water. He takes the pot and dumps the water out in the sink. He then announces I have reduced the problem to the previously solved problem.
There are two ways to solve a problem
- Solve the problem from scratch.
- Solve a small part of the problem, and notice that the rest of the problem is like something that has already been solved.
Why is this applicable to Project Management?
When we hear, we can't estimate this because we've never done this before. Or estimating is hard - meaning it's hard for me, and I can't possibly estimate when I don't know how. Or my favorite estimates are a waste, we need to start coding to produce value, these are examples of solving problems from scratch.
In other words problems are hard only when you don't know what to do. Once you know what to do, the problems become easy to solve
Knowing what to do comes in many forms:
- You've done it yourself
- You know someone who has done it before
- You can find how to do it by researching, experimenting, building a prototype
- You can hire someone who has done it before
But to sit and say, I don't know and therefore I can't estimate how long it will take or how much it will cost really means you don't know how to find out. That's different than you don't know.