“The Optimism Bias”: Why We Always Think Our Project is Special (and Immune to Cost Overruns)!

Estimated read time 2 min read

We’ve all been there. You start a DIY project brimming with confidence that you’ll finish under budget and ahead of schedule without any additional cost. Then, reality sets in, and you discover hidden structural issues. You need three times the amount of supplies you initially bought, and suddenly, your dream bookshelf resembles a billionaire’s yacht in terms of cost.

Well, guess what? This tendency to underestimate costs and timelines is broader than our weekend warrior projects. It’s a psychological phenomenon known as the “optimism bias,” which affects even the most seasoned professionals, including yours truly—cost estimators.

Think about it: we’ve all seen, or even been part of, projects that started with the rosy promise of being “on time and budget,” only to resemble a budget-busting, schedule-crushing black hole.

But why does this happen?

  • Anchoring bias: We cling to initial estimates, even when red flags start waving.
  • Planning fallacy: We underestimate the time and effort required to complete tasks.
  • Confirmation bias: We focus on information confirming our beliefs, ignoring potential risks.

So, how do we overcome the “optimism bias” and avoid becoming that friend whose DIY project bankrupted them?

  • Embrace data-driven planning: Ground your estimates on historical data and realistic assessments, not just wishful thinking.
  • Factor in contingency plans: Expect the unexpected and budget accordingly.
  • Promote transparency and communication: Foster open communication among stakeholders to manage expectations and address challenges head-on.

When we acknowledge our inherent optimism bias and adopt a data-driven, collaborative approach, we can build infrastructure that’s ambitious, achievable, and (hopefully) doesn’t require selling a kidney to complete.

Now, my fellow cost estimators, confess! Have you ever fallen victim to the optimism bias? Share your (hopefully) lighthearted stories in the comments!

#Infrastructure #CostManagement #ProjectManagement #OptimismBias #LinkedIn #CostPlanning #Estimating #CivilsBites

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