Successes and Failures

We explored the success behind our approaches, both when we estimate and we decided not to…  We posted where we saw these work (and not) and told stories about them, pulling out key characteristics for future thoughts.


With Estimates Without Estimates
  • Incremental change to existing functionality
  • Clear visibility to team on what and how they do things
  • Teams are normally good at point estimates of complexity
  • Provided useful tool to the business to negotiate priority
  • Estimated branch’s annual budget with a low fidelity estimate
  • Discussion of size can lead to a better understanding of complexity
  • Predicted lead-time and cost based on actual data
  • Embedded team:
    • project plan
    • estimates
    • hitting dates regularly (team built in a good amount of slack)
  • Stronger focus on business priority
  • Faster turn-around of issues
  • Faster planning sessions
  • Kanban team:
    • established rate (stories/week)
    • decomposed release backlog into stories
    • determined release date by applying rate
    • hit date within reason
  • Delivered on time and under budget
  • Team raising more questions and uncovering issues
  • Saved time and effort not using estimates of time/effort in maintenance (using Kanban)
  • Keeps customer engaged with team; holds customer accountable
  • Teams establish a mental model faster
  • Shorter release planning sessions without any true loss in fidelity of the work
  • More time to code & test; fewer meetings (#nomeetings)
  • Release planning; impact identified earlier (before it came to the team)


Likewise we also explored failures on both sides. We had less failures in the #noestimates which we jokingly said proved it was better, but putting the joke aside, it most likely stemmed from the fact most of our audience had not gone that route.


With Estimates Without Estimates
  • Longer than necessary debates about size
  • Estimating line items in an Excel sheet of requirements w/LOE in hours
  • Difficult to Forecast
  • Very bad at estimating time for tasks
  • Estimates happen, but not responded to  i.e. work only gets added, but not removed
  • Estimates get a life of their own – used by business to obligate team, contracts, etc.
  • Disconnect between business value, effort, and time tracking
  • Large teams (16+ members) struggle with estimation
  • Not understanding the value of what is being delivered (and only looking at cost)
  • Underestimating LOE
  • Ambiguity/unclear scope delivery
  • Impact on customer relations when very wrong
  • Asked of team: “when can you have a prototype?” Answer: 2 weeks that turned into a 2 week deadline for a working system for a customer
  • People (mgmt.) wanting to make demands for a schedule rather than accepting a schedule produced by the team
  • Forecasting when a feature set can be finished
  • People don’t understand what’s going on so they jump to (usually worst case) conclusions
  • Low effect on teamwork and lack of transparency
  • Focus on learning can be lost
  • People ask: “what’s a story point?” “What if X is doing the work? Is the story points different?”
  • Acquisition mandates estimates
  • Got bogged down in a feature whose complexity wasn’t well understood
  • Unanticipated work distracting team, preventing effective use of velocity for predictions/planning

15.0 Agile Dialogs Schedule

0900 – 0930 Registration, mingle & meet

0930 – 0945 Welcome & How the Day Will Work (ground rules)

0945 – 1000 Organize! (Self-Register into groups, each will explore the same topic, also place types of things you estimate on the board with your name) 

1000 – 1100 1st Sessions

1100 – 1115 *Break w/quick news*

1115 – 1215 2nd Sessions

1215 – 1300 *Lunch w/quick news*

1300 – 1400 3rd Sessions

1400 – 1415 *Break w/quick news*

1415 – 1515 4th Sessions

1515 – 1530 *Break w/quick news*

1530 – 1630 5th Sessions

1630 – 1645 *Break w/quick news*

1645 – 1700 Wrap-Up

1700 – 1730 Retrospective (Optional Attendance)  

After this if anyone is still wanting to hang out for a bit, we can retire to a local bar-restaurant for food, libations, and conversations.


1st Sessions – Explore the questions: 

  • “Tell your stories. What successes AND failures have you had when using either of these approaches?”
  • “And how have the techniques you have chosen helped or hindered you?”
  • Expectation – each group will record how techniques help or hinder on flip chart paper to allow other groups to see what they did during the break.

2nd Sessions – Explore the questions: 

  • ““What objectives are you trying to achieve by using estimates or in specifically not using them?”
  • “And what techniques do you use to achieve those objectives?”
  • Expectation – each will group record the objectives and techniques on flip chart paper to allow other groups to see what they did during the break.

3rd Sessions – Explore the question: 

  • “What fundamental assumptions are being made when you use estimates?”
  • Expectation – each group will record assumptions on flip chart paper to allow other groups to see what they did during the break.

4th Sessions – Explore the question: 

  • “What fundamental assumptions are being made when you don’t use estimates?”
  • Expectation – each group will record the assumptions on flip chart paper to allow other groups to see what they did during the break.

5th Sessions – Explore the question: 

  • “Now that you have heard more about the other side’s perspective and how they use or don’t use estimates, what learnings can you take back to improve what you do?” [This does not meaning you have to adopt their position, just is there some nugget that you learned today that will be something you’d like to try?]
  • Expectation – each group will record the learnings on flip chart paper to and present during the break.