Estimates Require Bottom Up Thinking

Bottomup thinking is said to take place through a process of taking in details and building up from there. The fragmented bits and pieces are structured and categorized, and then an induction is made—a process that brings rise to something.

Topdown processing, on the other hand, refers to perception that is driven by cognition.

I find that in the best of situations that those who are asking for estimates are often in management and the key to the success of the project is when they realize estimates require conversation.

This past week I have worked on four very intense and convoluted projects. The client is coming to me with a project that they often are trying to get done. Most of the time the management has already set a budget in place. When this is the case we spend time going back and forth to see what we can do within their budget.

I have one client that came to me looking for the Bottom-Up approach. They are in the budgeting phase for a major project. I helped them with a similar project in another part of the country. They are basically asking me to duplicate that in a new location.

The problem is that the person asking for the Estimate was not involved in all the parts of the last project. I am having to educate them on the parts of the estimate that are much more involved than what they think was involved.

Honduras Outreach Estabian Olancho

When most people see a video that is of an interview and it is under a minute they think that is all it took to get that interview. This is one of the parts of the estimate I had to explain to the client.

Here is the gist of my education on the topic of a video interview.

While you may see a 30 to 90 second interview, most all the ones you saw that we produced took about 3 too 4 hours of time to shoot. That includes the time to setup the cameras, lights, microphone and also to take it down. the actually time we interview was about 30 minutes.

I then take those interviews for a first rough cut. I take out all the questions and major pauses and create a video that is often first reviewed by another person on the team. That person is often the writer/editor. Then they send back time codes and we put together the first real edit. This includes the lower third graphics. Then this is shown to another person up the chain before we show it to the main client.

By the time the client sees it and makes then their changes the video has gone through usually about 4 to 5 revisions. This is usually about 8 to 10 hours of editing and reposting this online for the team to review.

Purpose of all this is to help explain why what they think is just a quick few minutes will actually be a couple days of work and that is why the estimate must reflect the behind the scene work they often do not see.

This is the Bottom-Up thinking.

The problem with those who do not understand the importance of the Bottom-Up thinkers working with Top-Down thinkers is you get the American Automobile decline during the 1960s till almost the 1980s. Meanwhile Japan overtook the market around 1970 with the help of Dr. William Edward Deming.

William Edwards Deming (1900-1993) is widely acknowledged as the leading management thinker in the field of quality. He was a statistician and business consultant whose methods helped hasten Japan’s recovery after the Second World War and beyond. He taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty).

Today most people know his work at Total Quality Management and link this to Toyota rather than Deming who created it. He broke it down into a cycle.

The Deming Cycle, or PDCA Cycle (also known as PDSA Cycle), is a continuous quality improvement model consisting out of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning: Plan, Do, Check (Study) and Act.

Estimates are only as good as the information given to the person creating the estimate. Deming understood that as you work on something like a car, it is often the front line worker who will first see a problem. They need the power to stop the assembly line for the purpose of being sure the customer gets the best product.

Estimates are needed for Ex Nihilo [out of nothing] work. This is where something is needed to be created versus buying something already in existence.

Bottom Line Take Away

Working on estimates can be quite frustrating to everyone. The key reason they are so frustrating is for the customer asking for the estimate they cannot go forward with the project if they don’t know what they are getting and the cost of it. For the one writing the estimate they need all the information to create the estimate, but most of the time the customer doesn’t know all they need to know–thus this is why they are asking for an estimate.

Customers need to be realistic about the process of creating an estimate. They should never think that they can continue to ask for revisions without compensating for this work.

The one doing the estimating is doing some of the work you need done to go to your bosses to give them the feedback they need for budgeting and to make decisions.

If you are the one creating estimates, I believe there comes a point in the process of revisions that you are perfectly entitled to compensation. You are doing all the heavy lifting and the client can then take all your work and then just shop for someone to implement your estimate for a lower rate.

Most of the time it is the one doing the estimating, that is doing the most creative work for a project. They need to be compensated. Also don’t forget that people are not going to pay for your first estimate. There will be some give and take, but at some point the client needs to compensate for all those revisions if they want more clarity in the estimate.