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I try to avoid giving time estimates where possible as well. In practice sometimes you have to, though, and if you have said "I'll have the answer by tomorrow" and tomorrow comes and this turns out not to be the case, you say something along the lines of: This turns out to be a trickier problem than met the eye; here's what I've found out so far; do you want me to keep looking for a solution?

I work at a large bank (trillions in deposits). When I am asked to give an estimate, I say: "I haven't done the estimate yet."

When they say "How long will it take to do the estimate?" I reply: "I have no idea until I get into the details of the problem."

When management asks for an estimate, with rare exceptions, they actually mean: "We are putting pressure on you to get this done by a certain date, but we don't want to tell you what that date is, and we're betting that if you give us a low estimate now, you'll pressure yourself to meet your own deadline, and we won't have to manage the project."

The problem with that type of reasoning is that in the end, the workers are stressed, and the solution is suboptimal.

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