Sometimes you come across a subject that peak your interest (in a good way). This week I stumbled across the subject of no estimates. This great tweet by Vasco Duarte really pulled me right in.
After reading some blogs and watching some talks, it really made me wonder. Why do all the teams I work with estimate stories? And the only reason I can think of is that they teach it in Scrum 101, and how would you ever be able to predict when a project would finish? No Estimates provides a way to take a different approach. What is that approach? Let’s dive right in!
What is no estimates?
One of the agile principles is to respond to change over following a plan. But in reality, how many times have you been in a longer project, where you were asked to estimate all stories so Management or a Product owner would get a good grasp on how long a project would take? While the first stories you would actually work on might have a semi-accurate estimation, but how accurate are your estimates really for stories that you will not pick up for another 2 months, with all kinds of lessons learned before you get there?
The idea with no estimates is to stop estimating your stories. At first, this thought had me a bit skeptical. How can this possibly work? How can we possibly be on a steady pace if we don’t somehow can point that an “8 story pointer” is much more complicated than just a 1 story point ticket?
No Estimates in practice
In this great talk by Allen Holub, he shares how he tackles to use it in practice.
The approach they take is to count the stories. Make sure your stories are small enough and give them 1 story point as an estimation. This might feel contradicting, but the data shows this is more accurate than using the Fibonacci sequence for estimating.
This means you no longer have to spend time as a team to estimate stories, that end up being wrong in the end. The way you calculate velocity can still be used in the same way.
Obstacles to overcome
The reason estimates exist in the first place is because estimating in time was not accurate but usually, people in the business need it for their planning. No Estimates can feel a bit controversial, and managers can panic if they no longer have the influence on their planning.
If you are lucky enough to have Management that is willing to listen to the positives, go ahead! If you are unlucky, you might need to pitch the idea more often, or maybe put on your bad-ass hat, and just go for an experiment of a couple of sprints and present the results afterward.
No estimates are a great way to reduce time spent in planning. Estimations are often wrong and very hard to get accurate. So why not eliminate the need for them? No Estimates offers a good alternative for estimations. Try to get a more accurate picture of work, and not use a method that is known to be less effective.
The concept might seem radical or idealogic to some people, and one of the downsides is that Managers with control tendencies will likely be difficult to convince to give this a try.
If you are interested in reading more of my content, I can recommend checking The importance of off-screen hobbies.