In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that achieving real expertise at something complex takes about 10,000 hours of effort. This is the so-called "10,000-Hour Rule," and Gladwell cites the Beatles and Bill Gates as two examples of people who put in at least 10,000 hours of consistent practicing and mastering their craft (music and programming) before they really had their big breakthroughs to success.
We Project zealots immediately note that this is 10,000 hours of work, not 10,000 elapsed hours. There is a difference--a big difference. How big? Let's use Project as a time calculator to find out.
Scenario A: The Relentless Aspiring Expert
Let's say that our Aspiring Expert, A.E., has through a series of fortunate events found herself with the opportunity to devote 10,000 hours of her time to gaining true Gladwellish expertise in her chosen passion. A.E. is indeed fortunate because she has a benefactor who will foot the bill for her living expenses and training costs during this impressive ramp-up time period. A.E. commits to begin her road to expertise on January 1, 2013 and further commits to spend a full 40 hours per week with her nose at the grindstone. When can we schedule A.E.'s graduation to expertise upon completing her 10,000 hours of training?
First off, in Project I set the project's start date to be January 1, 2013 and leave the default project calendar at 40 hours per week. A.E. has signed up to work a full 40 hour work-week, and won't even pause for holidays. She'll do her laundry and all other mundane tasks required by life on the weekends. Here's the initial task and assignment I create:
TIP Click the screenshot image to see a larger view.
Next I'll modify the view a bit. Because the 10,000 hours is work and not elapsed duration, I want to see work in my Gantt Chart view. (Right click the Start column heading, click Insert Column, and select Work.) I also like to see work quantified per time period, so I'll show the Resource Usage view in the Details pane. (On the View tab, in the Split View group, click the Details box and then select Resource Usage.)
Now we're ready for Project's scheduling engine to do its magic. I enter the impressive value of10,000 hours in the Work field for task 1:
There it is--making all of the above assumptions about our aspiring expert A.E., we see that A.E. will complete her training by October 16, 2017--about five years, 10 and a half months later.
Next to get a better look at how A.E.'s work will be distributed over that impressive time period, I fiddle with the timescale. (On the View tab, in the Zoom group, in the Timescale box click Years.)
There it is--just over 2,000 hour per year at 40 hours per week for almost six years is A.E.'s ticket to expertise.
Scenario B: The Slow Dabbler
Not many people can actually set up their lives so they can commit 40 hours per week to their passion. How about for those of us who can commit only a few hours per week to our passion? Let's look at the case of A. Hobbiest, or A.H. This person can invest only eight hours per week to developing his expertise. How long will A.H. need to achieve Gladwellian expertise? Let's take a look.
First, I set up the task in the same way:
This time though I'll go about things a little differently. I'll assign the resource A.H. to the task at 20% units (which equals 8 hours per week for a normal 40-hour workweek), and then enter the same 10,000 hour work value:
Oh boy, I hope A.H. is a patient person! Looks like he'll be chipping away at his expertise at a rate of eight hours per week for a long, long time--all the way to December 15, 2036 to be exact!
Is either scenario very realistic? For most people, probably not. Developing expertise in any complex domain or skillset is very unlikely to follow this predictable and linear progression. However I hope this post has illustrated some neat capabilities of Project, and especially reinforced the difference between work (those 10,000 hours) and elapsed duration.
Hands-on with Project Step by Step
To read more about this blog entry's subjects in the two most recent editions of Tim Johnson's and my Project Step by Step books, see the following cross-references.
The Scheduling Formula (Project's magic sauce that links task duration, resource assignment units and work)
- Project 2010 Step by Step: "Changing Task Types," pg. 158
- Project 2007 Step by Step: "Changing Task Types," pg. 156
Resource Usage view
- Project 2010 Step by Step: "Tracking Timephased Actual Work for Tasks and Assignments," pg. 263
- Project 2007 Step by Step: "Tracking Timephased Actual Work for Tasks and Assignments," pg. 297
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