“Avoiding responsibility for estimates is another way of saying, “I’m not ready to be relied upon for building critical pieces of infrastructure.”
I catch myself doing this, especially with new projects that I haven’t fully thought out. I’m asked for an estimate and I know I’m not great at estimating, so I waffle and don’t commit to a firm timeline. If I was honest with myself, it’s exactly because I’m subconsciously screaming “This piece of infrastructure is important…the responsibility is scary!”
Definitely something I need to work on.
Joel has an interesting argument for “evidence based scheduling” where the premise is that engineers are always going to be wrong about how they estimate time, but they will probably always be wrong in the same way, and so you should be able to construct real estimates based on how wrong they are. I haven’t seen numbers on how good this is, though.