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07 April 2014


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Allan Kelly

Yes my thinking is similar.

I think estimates can be useful:
- for the team (understanding work, selecting work etc.)
- in the short term (next 2 weeks good, maximum 12 weeks out)

I have a long blog from last year about my thinking, if you don't mind me linking

I agree with much of what the #NoEstimates gang says although I feel there is a bit of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater".

The mis-use of estimates (usually beyond the team and far into the future) causes a lot of problems. And sometimes the information conveyed in an "effort estimate" isn't really that useful (particularly if people remember they are *estimates* not promised.)

My standard line for longer range work these days is to: Forward planning should be value not effort based.

So I ask the business to estimate business value before any effort estimates are made. (They can do this using planning poker just like effort estimation.)

If nothing else it gives the business folk a new appreciation of the difficulty in estimating. Developers sometimes find it amusing to here the business folk trot out all the old "I can't estimate because..." lines which the business usually criticise.


I wonder if its that you run #NoProjects or just that you're run by XPers? Most of the companies run by old-school XPers that I know are quite happy with estimates because they understand what they are: educated guesses about an uncertain future. We use estimation to cost external projects and I've found it relatively easy to educate customers on the uncertainty of estimates ... partly I'm sure because there is no-one else in the business they can ask to get a more 'conventional' view.

One of the things that saddens me about #NoEstimates is that it eschews what I think has always been a valuable learning tool. Estimation as a process is one of thinking about and discussing the problem and its solution(s) and getting estimates 'wrong' is a chance for reflection and improvement (whether improvement of estimating or of an environment where even accurate estimates have no bearing on time to deliver). Yes its hard to get good at but that's true of many things:

Kid: I want to learn the guitar and play some gigs

NoEstimates Dad: Playing the guitar is hard. I tried and couldn't do it. Some of my friends tried and they sound awful.

Kid: But if I practice and get good at it I can make people happy

NED: But not many people are good at it, what makes you think you can be any different? And think of how disappointed people will be if they come and listen when you're not very good - they'll just shout at you (or worse).

Kid: I'll just tell them I'm still learning and maybe they'll like my stuff enough to encourage me to get better

NED: there are lots of other ways to entertain people with music. Why not just put a CD on and tell them live music is overrated - full of mistakes and imperfections. They don't really want to listen to live music, they just don't know that yet

David Tanzer

From your description, it sounds like you are doing very little estimation, and for the right reason. I don't know your exact circumstances, but I think we are in a similar situation. Except that we maybe produce the estimates not only for the right reasons.

I also see some value in the "estimation process" my team uses (1.5 hours every two weeks, planning poker) - especially the discussions that happen there. And there's maybe even some value in the estimates we produce. But: I think we could get away with less. (Unfortunately, I am the only one who wants to try it).

Our average user story is 2.something story points, and we usually accept stories <= 8 story points for development. So I think we would not lose much precision when we just estimated stories as "small enough for development" / "too big". Then we could move the (valuable) discussions closer to when the work happens - like, right after we start working on it.

So, the real #NoEstimates question for me is: "Could we get away with a lot less than we do now". And the answer to that is probably often "yes". But maybe I didn't understand #NoEstimates correctly.

Niklas Björnerstedt

One core element here is that estimates are used as an internal measure and not a target. Many of the destructive effects of estimates come when they are treated as promises.

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