Agile 2018

Agile 2018
Speaking at Agile 2018

Monday, June 11, 2018

No Estimates have a spot at the Campfire

Lots of debate around the campfire.
One of the best things about being a member of the Agile community is the smart and enthusiastic people you encounter online and in person.  It is refreshing and challenging to be around people who have a shared vision of making business faster, sustainable, and more intelligent.  The commitment to the goals of agile does not mean we are ideologically unified and dogmatic.  Like any healthy practice, we disagree with each other about basic principles, ways to spread adoption, and innovations.  The creative tension is essential.  I want to add my two cents to an on-going debate which a colleague Ryan Ripley brought to my attention from the sober and restrained convention floor of the #BetterSoftwareCon in Las Vegas. 

The #NoEstimates movement has become a very vocal camp in the agile reformation.  If you follow the debate, it is easy to see why.  The estimation process at many companies is farcical and corrupt.  Story points were created to provide the benefits of estimation without the obvious drawbacks.  The #NoEstimates crowd take this to a logical conclusion and say estimating is a waste of time and energy.

I do not feel very strongly about #NoEstimates.  What makes it interesting is it provides a different perspective to authoring software.  Neil Killick then posted a white paper this week showing some qualitative measurements which show a no estimates approach works just as well as a story point approach.  

I was skeptical but, I decided to give the article the benefit of the doubt.  Killick uses T-Shirt sizes to measure ambiguity and difficulty.  Using arithmetic and charts, he shows how he can forecast project completion.  The approach is well thought out and clear.  It is also story points dressed up to look like #NoEstimates.  It requires the product owners to spend time doing arithmetic instead of writing stories and working with customers and developers.  Personally, I struggle getting product owners to perform the basics of their duties.  Thus, using Killick’s approach may work for a different agile implementation but not for mine. 

I genuinely dislike debates which generate more heat than light.  Killick provides a good approach for a more mature agile team.  I am glad I had a chance to learn about it and will keep it in my chest of tools if I feel it worth trying.  The agile manifesto says, “Individuals and interactions over, processes and tools.” I believe that Killick’s approach is a process which might work with a particular set of individuals.  I also think that discussion of #NoEstimates is good for the agile movement.  People try out ideas, test them, and they are adopted or rejected over time.  It sounds mighty agile to me.

Until next time.