Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Can we have a dialogue about Estimation and the behaviors it drives?


Some topic are taboo - not safe to discuss.  I've never appreciated that concept.  Those taboo topics are my favorite topics to discuss.

Taboo Topics (ordered by fear of conversation)
  • Gender - Sexual preferences - non-standard practices
  • Religion as truth, my religion vs your wrong religion
  • Politics - the correct way to govern a group the results in my opportunity
  • Pay for services rendered - why my gender is paid more than yours
  • counting - off by one errors and how to mask them; we're # 1
  • estimates - how wrong your estimate was and why I'm missing my commitment
  • prioritization - ordering methods
  • laziness - the art of not doing work
I've recently been embroiled in a "dialogue" about the twitter topic of #NoEstimates.  I would write a summary of the topic but cannot do better that this one:

Estimates? We Don’t Need No Stinking Estimates! by Scott Rosenberg
"How a hashtag (#NoEstimates) lit the nerdy world of project management aflame — or at least got it mildly worked up."

A nice summary of the dust-up.  Imagine if the tag would have been #LeanEstimates?

There are two sides to this debate - at least two sides.  But I like that the taboo topic was raised and has questioned assumptions.  I think the think that drives a topic toward the taboo is this questioning of assumptions.  The saluter of scared cows (where does that term even come from?).

So what behaviors does the process or estimating drive:


  • a list
  • TBD
  • someone misplaced the list...


"Unable to estimate accurately, the manager can know with certainty neither what resources to commit to an effort nor, in retrospect, how well these resources were used.  The lack of a firm foundation for these two judgements can reduce programming management to a random process in that positive control is next to impossible. This situation often results in the budget overruns and schedule slippages that are all too common." -- J.A Farquhar
Does a Scrum process framework and the Agile mindset resolve Farquhar's concerns that the manager may have without accurate estimates - via empirical measurement and relative estimation techniques?

I'm not sure that the Twitter-verse is capable of holding the dialogue.  My experience was not very fruitful nor enlightening.  I've been accused by a manager at work of being "anti-management" I've asked, but got no direct answer, what that term meant, and why he believed or thought this label to be useful.  I've wondered if it was because of this type of conversation.  I also asked these fellows, but didn't resolve my query with the rhetoric of the conversation.
... deleted ... a lot of tweets about actions from years ago when when the #NoEstimates twitter conversation was beginning - some relating to a blog post being edited or complete deleted.  Something I find quite acceptable (and do quite frequently myself).






The conversation went on from there...  I'm reminded of Adam on MythBusters.



... and there is some link to Anti-Management because one is willing to discuss better options or worse options than estimation...


There appears to be large amounts of animosity amongst the principle people that were having this dialogue - nope that word is not the best word, here... try debate... twitter shouting match...








How might the analogy of estimation is like addiction be a useful analogy?




See Also:

Exercise:  Estimate the Number of Times you can Fold a Paper in Half

Impact of Schedule Estimation on Software Project Behavior
by Tarek K. Abdel-Hamid, SRI International Stuart E. Madnick, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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