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This pilot fish is tapped to lead development of a critical application, and once he has acquired some training on the selected technologies, it's time to answer a key question.

"The boss asked when the application could go into production," says fish. "I provided a range of 20 to 24 months. The boss allowed that the organization would never stand for that schedule."

But the boss admits they need the application, and will be better off developing it internally rather than trying to buy or get outside help. So he tells fish that he'll pass along an estimate of six months -- and forbids fish to ever say otherwise.

Fast forward a year, by which time fish's boss has left the organization. Fish's new boss asks for an estimate of when the software will be ready to go -- and fish's one-more-year response makes him quite unhappy.

Still, a lot of progress has clearly been made and the organization has invested a lot in the application, so the new boss agrees to soldier on.

Just under a year later, the application goes live -- right in the middle of fish's original 20- to 24-month estimate. The application does what it's supposed to, and the users are as happy as users can be.

"And I recognized my future at that organization had the crushing burden of a reputation for late delivery," fish says.

"But years later, I went to a retirement party for a co-worker on the project -- and learned that, because the technology was dated, the application we developed was still in place after two expensive attempts to replace it."

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