#NoEstimates – What it means to me

This is not an expose on #NoEstimates. It is not an appraisal of strengths and weaknesses. There are a bunch of people that write very eloquently on these aspects. It is not a recount of disagreements with those that oppose the hashtag (and how unsavory it can get – less said the better) . This is just a simple story about #NoEstimates and me.

I can’t precisely remember when I first encountered #No Estimates. I can’t remember how I first got alerted to the hashtag. I do know that it was a little while ago and the hashtag did two things. It caught my attention and it also triggered a thought of “I don’t think so”. That thought was not because I don’t like the idea of no estimates, I do, I really do, but the commercial realities I have dealt in, currently operate in, put the notion in the “highly unlikely” category.

Since first stumbling across the no estimates hashtag I’ve done heaps of reading on the subject, tweeted more than I can count and met, via Twitter, some really smart, respectful people. Woody Zuill, Ryan Ripley, Zach Bonaker, Vasco Duarte, Luis Goncalves, Neil Killick, the list goes on. Just about everyday I make a new connection with another friendly, smart person through #NoEstimates. #NoEstimates has actually had me reading books, articles and blogs that once I would have let pass by in favour of other sources of information. It has broadened and added depth to my knowledge and thinking. If this is all #NoEstimates delivered to me then I could hardly complain. But it runs deeper than that.

I read the beta book, provided feedback. Promoted it to work colleagues. I even presented a brown bag session on key take away messages from the No Estimates book (and from memory there was some interest, from some colleagues, in the possibilities). One of my colleagues ran a card count exercise across a couple of sprints and we compared them to the estimated story points. The team I work in did the same. What did we find? On only a relatively small amount of data card counting told us as much about the work that could be completed in a sprint as estimating. That was cool, and useful. That was a direct result of the beta book.

Once I started reading about no estimates I’ve never thought of #NoEstimates as meaning no estimates, at all, ever, in any context. I’ve always thought it spoke at broader levels, wider topics with a focus on improvement. To me there are key messages, things that I can try and bring to my workplace. #NoEstimates, to me, talks about:

  • Informed estimates
  • Fewer estimates (only when really needed)
  • Lean estimates
  • Improved quality
  • Improved stakeholder relationships

There are many sub themes hanging off the above list. I’ve had conversations with people (face to face and Twitter) about #NoEstimates and these themes always surface. So, if I’m missing the point, I’m missing it with a lot of other people. I struggle to see how embracing any of the above themes could do anything but good for a company.

There is a further theme that calls out to me from #No Estimates – obliquity. Again, I’m not really clear how the heck I stumbled across the concept. I do know it involved this article. Obliquity is the notion that complex problems, with multiple moving parts, are best solved obliquely rather than directly. I don’t want to spoil a good article by saying much more (and I highly recommend John Kays’ book Obliquity). You can also catch him in a Ted talk . When I look at many of the problems spoken about in IT, and I look at the #NoEstimates themes I see an oblique approach to making those big problems better (such as sustainable quality, happy engaged people and highly delighted clients).

The company I currently work for will never embrace no estimates (guess I shouldn’t say never but it’s safe to say it would be a long time in to the future). There is a strong commercial model in place that mandates estimates. There is no scope for that to just stop. It is what it is and it is beyond my direct control.  However the discussion around, and the lessons from, #NoEstimates provide ideas that could help our estimating process become more meaningful, our quality higher and our stakeholder relationships more valuable . It provides scope for experimenting and discovering and improving. At least that’s my hope.

Once again, thanks for dropping by and having a read of my thoughts.




2 thoughts on “#NoEstimates – What it means to me

  1. Raj,

    thanks for the reminder of how I found the obliquity reference. Also thanks for the feedback on the article. Do I rate you as a smart and respectful person – of course I do – but you knew that already.

    Liked by 1 person

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