Project Team Members and Estimates


Series on Project Management for Team Members
Article 3

By Prof Marco Sampietro

SDA Bocconi School of Management

Milan, Italy



This is the third article of the series: Project Management for Team Members (aka Project Followership). Here we will deal with the importance of involving team members in the estimate process and the difficulties they may face during this process.

The topic of estimates is absolutely central in project management. We may have defined the objectives down to the last detail, developed an excellent WBS and correctly assigned the project roles and responsibilities, but if the estimates concerning the costs, schedule and use of resources are wrong we risk embarking on a project that has very little chance of achieving the set objectives.

The estimation process is therefore very important, and project team members play a central role in this regard.


The vast majority of project management literature suggests involving team members in the estimation process. This is mainly for two reasons:

  • Team members usually have the knowledge to provide reliable estimates for tasks they have to carry out;
  • If team members are involved in the estimate process their level of commitment will increase thus heightening the probability that the estimates will be respected. In fact, it has been noted that when people are asked to set their own goals (an example would be asking a team member to propose a duration for the task they have to carry out), they tend to focus their energies on achieving those goals. This dual relationship between estimate and performance (the expected performance influences the estimate but the estimate also influences performance) goes by the name of “self-fulfilling prophecy” (Merton 1968). In general self-fulfilling prophecies are those predictions whereby the person making the prediction is also capable of influencing its coming about; if there is a high expectation that the prophecy will occur the individual will behave so that it does. The motivation for this behavior is mainly to enhance or protect reputations and to increase self-esteem.

The involvement of project team members in the estimate process is particularly relevant when the bottom-up estimate technique is selected from among the various options, that is, team members are asked to estimate the different variables relating to single work packages of the WBS.


Some points of the estimation process must be taken into careful consideration by the team member who provides the estimates during project planning.

The different degrees of tolerable approximation

A first point that very often creates difficulties, if not even embarrassment, is the fact that all projects are based on estimates and not accurate data and that the approximation and uncertainty of these estimates may even vary within the same project.


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About the Author


Milan, Italy



Marco Sampietro
obtained a Ph.D. at the University of Bremen, Germany. Since 2000 he has been a professor at SDA Bocconi School of Management, Milan, Italy. SDA Bocconi School of Management is ranked among the top Business Schools in the world (Financial Times, Forbes, Bloomberg, and The Economist rankings). He is a Core Faculty Member at SDA Bocconi School of Management and teaches Project Management in the MBA – Master of Business Administration, and GEMBA – Global Executive Master of Business Administration programs. He is Faculty Member at MISB – Mumbai International School of Business, the Indian subsidiary of Bocconi University, and Visiting Professor at IHU – International Hellenic University, Greece. He is also a Contract Professor at Bocconi University and Milano Fashion Institute for the Project Management courses.

He was a speaker at the NASA Project Management Challenge 2007, 2008, and 2011, in the USA, and a speaker at the PMI Global European Congress, Italy, 2010.

He is Member of the Steering Committee of IPMA-Italy.

He is co-author and/or editor of 10 books on project management and 7 books on IT management. Among them: Empowering Project Teams. Using Project Followership to Improve Performance. CRC Press, 2014. Finally, he is the author of award-winning case studies and papers.

Dr. Sampietro can be contacted at: [email protected]

To see other works by Marco Sampietro, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/marco-sampietro/