Andrew Brown

Company: SQS

Role in Company: Principal consultant

Country: United Kingdom

Presentation Takeaways

1. Estimation causes our projects to go more risky
2. You can reduce this risk by cognitive bias mitigation.

Speaker Biography

Dr Andrew Brown is a principal consultant at SQS. Recently, he has developed an independent line of research into understanding why we humans make the mistakes that lead to software defects. This research has produced a new view of defect reduction, several papers and a revamp of training and induction at SQS. He has 25 years’ experience in the software industry. Previous roles include Head of QA at HMV, Head of QA at a financial software house and a test manager in Japan. He holds a degree in Physics and Maths, an MBA from Warwick Business School and a doctorate from Imperial College.

Presentation Description

Estimation and risky behaviour: How the act of estimation will cause your project to become riskier that you ever intended it to be.
Everybody understands that most projects estimates are wrong. However, do we understand all of the factors that contribute to this error? More importantly, are we aware of how this error affects subsequent behaviour on that project?

In this session, I demonstrate how the anchoring effect is not only a major contributing factor to that underestimate, but also how it causes the estimate to be given a far greater precision than is actually warranted.

However, things become considerably worse once the project is underway. This underestimate causes the project team to perceive that they are in a loss situation (rather than one of gains). This perception drives the project team’s behaviour accordingly, causing them to unconsciously engage in far riskier behaviour than either they intend to or that their parent organisation has an appetite for.

Combining concepts from the anchoring effect heuristic and also from the Nobel Prize winning prospect theory, I get users to experience for themselves how on most projects their own decision making behaviour becomes skewed towards additional and sub-optimal risk taking.

If you have ever looked back at a project and wondered how the estimate got so wrong and just why ended up taking so many risks, this is the talk for you.