Perhaps I'm just naive, but when I try to decipher the wall of tasks I'm targeted to do over the course of a week, I just can't help but think whoever builds the project schedule needs to get some remedial training on basic project management.

For example, I am assigned 13 tasks today, the shortest lasting .13 days (default time metric in Microsoft Project), and the longest lasting .75 days. I can't help but think that it is blatant micromanagement scheduling projects in sub 10 minute intervals.

The effects of management are becoming evident in slipped tasks, resource assignment exceeding capacity by a factor of two at some points in time, and spending more time clearing tasks and figuring out what comes next than actually doing work.

How can I convince the project manager to create tasks with larger duration and to see the larger picture? Micromanagement == insane schedules?

  • 2
    .13 days is about 3 hours. Where are you getting sub-10 minute intervals? Dec 15, 2010 at 23:28
  • 4
    If it were me, I'd send in my own estimates. I'd include a task for "deciphering the project plan - 3 days". And I'd send the boss links to articles with titles like "Basic Project Management - The Idiot's Guide". See how long it takes for it to sink in
    – JohnL
    Dec 15, 2010 at 23:31
  • 1
    I feel with you; I had such a boss, and eventually quit.
    – user281377
    Dec 15, 2010 at 23:38
  • 1
    @entens What are you doing in such a company.
    – Gaurav
    Dec 16, 2010 at 3:54
  • 2
    @Gaurav Keeping my head down, plowing through the work, and searching for the nearest exit. Dec 16, 2010 at 7:31

6 Answers 6


Ask your manager to set priorities on each one of the tasks. Then, agree to complete the tasks in priority order.

He won't do it.

You could try introducing management to CCPM. They'll find out in a hurry that the single biggest bleeder of productivity is interruptions.

But seriously, do you really think you can change that kind of mindset? Lives have been squandered trying.


When you go to the garage, you don't tell the guy:

"please change the oil, the filters. And check the a/c system, it makes some strange noise. In addition of that do a wheel alignment check and automatic transmission flush. You have 1.23 hours and I'll pay you $97"

You ask him how much time he will need, and how much he will asks. Even if your are a specialist yourself knowing how much time he should take, and how much he should charge.

If you doesn't agree with the time he needs and/or the amount he charges, you go to another garage right?

That's pretty much the same here. Your worker, the specialist, the one that will do the task, should estimate it himself.

At a team level, team should be responsible of it. To avoid too much variation in estimations between team members, a consensus based estimation methodology should be used like Planning Poker.

Now how to deal with your current manager?

Unless you are able to convince him using the argument above just by telling him, you will have to work with it. Very few managers are able to "change" on the impulsion of their people so fast. Most of them will never change.

  • Each time you are assigned with tasks along with his estimations send him your figures back politely.
  • Use evidence of your allegations by pointing past experience on tasks that takes more time than initially planned.
  • You will have to repeat the cycle above a lot of time
  • You will need patience, determination and courage. Ivan Pavlov is your friend here.

Eventually, he will change his mind and adopt the system described above.

But your manager is probably a parkinsonian. In that case, call Ashton, and ask him for advices. Because he is probably not going to change.

Don't worry for him after you left, he will find another developer to abuse.

  • This is great advice, but please tell me Senior Pablo and his Ashton story is not becoming a trend. Dec 16, 2010 at 7:55
  • @entens: I promise. But the story highlight something I affection: courage to quit.
    – user2567
    Dec 16, 2010 at 8:05
  • What if the grease monkey was working for you though, not as a contractor?
    – Jé Queue
    Dec 16, 2010 at 17:04
  • He is paid by hour, the same way. The difference is that he is dedicated to you, and if you want to change, you end its contract.
    – user2567
    Dec 16, 2010 at 17:15

.13 days @ 8 hours per day (480 minutes per day) = 62.4 minutes (just over an hour). Planning down to one-hour tasks isn't that bad.

More importantly, how are the tasks getting onto the schedule in the first place? And how are the durations being assigned? If your project manager is coming up with the list of tasks and what the durations should be, then that's a problem. It's your PM's job to track these items, but it's the team's responsibility to come up with the list of tasks and estimates for those tasks. Planning is a team sport.

It sounds like there are some other issues at play here also, and you may have some very valid complaints. Have you tried talking with the PM one-on-one about your concerns?

  • 1
    @Marcie I've watched this particular manager build his schedules. It starts from my company's project template, and tasks are inserted like the project is a 18 month long todo list. A start and finish date get assigned to the first and last task, next the predecessor tasks get bound, and finally the tasks are assigned durations which seem to not make the schedule invalid. Some of the managers are better than others with their schedules, but the problem is systemic of managers being moved from project to project, each with a little of their own flair left over. Dec 16, 2010 at 7:28
  • How long are these projects, in total? I think I would create a schedule of my own of my tasks, or all the development tasks, and present that to management.
    – Marcie
    Dec 16, 2010 at 16:03
  • @Marcie the projects are scheduled 12-28 months. I have tried and failed to explain that creating a single project with 4000+ task items is a bad idea. Dec 17, 2010 at 20:15
  • 4000 tasks? Wow! I totally agree with you.
    – Marcie
    Dec 17, 2010 at 20:19
  • 1
    No, planning software development to 1 hour is retarded.
    – hplbsh
    Jan 15, 2011 at 5:12

Sorry, but sometimes you just gotta deal with it. Get on the PM's good side. Sometimes no matter what your position you just simply ain't gonna like for whom you're doing work.

I can almost guarantee you the PM has a limited budget, has been given a horribly inadequate budget to begin-with, or has a fixed # of hours that he has to meet and for which his job and his pay is accountable. I would also bet that management like that comes down from his management chain, doubtful the PM likes to be tracking things to that level either, in fact they're probably being micromanaged to an even finer degree.

  • 1
    I have a feeling that this is the result of cascading micromanagement now that you mention this. Dec 16, 2010 at 7:01

Perhaps you could try to argue that there is a lot of overhead on defining and estimating tasks that are so small. That instead of writing out all the details and estimates for 4 tasks that are each to take .125 days, it may be better to have 1 task estimated at .5 day that can be set up much faster. Now, this does have a few caveats:

  1. Larger estimates still have to be close to right. If in bundling things together the estimates get less accurate this could be a problem as there is a trust that the developers want but the project manager may now want to give. This is more about addressing a fear before the project manager has the precedence to say, "Look you already messed this up before. Why should I trust you now?" with some evidence.

  2. That the people that look at the work done such as the Project Manager and sponsors can understand there may be a minimal difference between doing 101 tiny tasks and 10 large work items as it could be the same work at times. Some people may view quantity as what counts and unfortunately that is where the catch comes in play here as I see it. I'm not sure how to resolve this issue as the typical solution I'd see is trying to get the other person to see the logic which may or may not go over well.

  3. How technically savvy is the PM? This can be another point as if the PM isn't that savvy, then there is a concern that this may come off as snobby or arrogant which isn't the intent as you want the freedom to do something as you see rather than being given the to-do list with 10 steps of how to do something from a to j.

Those would be the areas of concern I'd be sure to know how to handle questions he may have in wanting to put this into practice as what I think you want is fair and realistic to my mind.


Do your best, it's his fault if his planning is wrong and with luck his manager will start asking questions when deadlines start slipping.

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