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Predict the future: pick a number

Just throwing a number can get you surprisingly far

1 min read
Predict the future: pick a number

A friend of mine has a tactic to get her group of friends to decide on which restaurant to go to. When she notices that people are being indecisive for too long, she just suggests McDonalds. The conversation usually takes a different turn — her friends start to bring up options that are better, and eventually they converge to something good.

You can use this tactic to improve clairvoyance, and a great way to start is to make bets on the future by predicting some numbers.

Let's take an example: hiring plans. Let's say you'd like to have 10 more people on your team. Assuming that 50% of the people will accept, you'd probably have to send around 20 offers — to 20 candidates that you like. Let's say your bar is high and you typically reject half of the candidates, that's around 40 candidates that would go through your full interview pipeline. And so on, you can predict how many hours will you have to interview, how much training can you give your team, etc.

With these kind of calculations we can see if our goals are too ambitious, and brainstorm some of the resources required to reach them. If, as in the example above, we see that the team will have to spend a lot of time in interviews, we can be more aware of the impact on delivery and align the expectations.

There's another advantage to doing these kinds of calculations. They force us to examine the past, project it into the future, and evaluate whether the context that created the data is still applicable. For example, let's say that your team had 10 new members and 5 people left. How many people do you think will leave this year? Most importantly, why?

I'm often surprised at how much these rough estimations help provide more context  behind blanket, ambitious statements.

It's illuminating and fun. So why not?