Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic in Cost Estimation

Posted on January 8, 2010 by


Cost estimating is a project management task that can involve an especially high number of “unknowns.” Although as more is known and the scope is refined, the cost estimates can be more accurately reported. The “Neandertals Guide to Cost Estimating,” which is a Naval Air booklet that can be accessed at, contains a listing in chapter five of the 12 most common mistakes made in cost estimating. The number one error listed is mistakes in basic math—simple arithmetic that a fourth-grader could do. It’s always a good idea to double-check the calculations, which is often overlooked when someone proofreads a report. Other common errors are reading errors—either not reading or following the instructions for the specific format or template. One way this problem can easily occur is through recycling proposals and not assuring that the details are consistent with the current requirements. Lastly, a frequent mistake is in the writing—people may forget to explain (or their explanation is unclear) the basis for their estimates and the benefit of the project overall. Ironically it the very basics in education that are the most common source of errors here—the standard “Reading, Writing, and ‘Rithmetic.” This also means that the simple solution of careful work and proofing can go far in improving the quality of cost estimate reports.