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Discussion on: Agile software estimation for everyone

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David Whitney Author

Firstly, I absolutely love this response 🖤

I'm familiar with the linked video and think it makes some excellent points - J. B. Rainsberger is a very smart human, much respect.

On the "impossibility of estimates":

I think it's unrealistic to say "you literally cannot estimate anything because all there is is accidental complexity" - case in point the "make a paper hat, make a paper boat" scenario.

If you do two similar tasks, they take a similar amount of time. This knowledge of prior art can absolutely result in close estimates. I've done it for twenty years with alarming accuracy.

There are of course, caveats, and anything can be derailed by human complexity, but it is the job of management, and specific roles in an organisation to prevent this happening, and even a moderately functioning organisation is capable of giving people "a few days of space".

Gatekeeping and knowledge of estimation numbers

It's interesting that you characterise the process of understanding arbitrary scales as some form of experience barrier for new members, or power dynamic. I've never considered it in that way, and it hasn't been my experience at all.

Measuring Cycle Time

I love love love measuring cycle time as a core measure of team hygiene and health. This is just another way of understanding the teams shared mental model of a specific story size, and their trend towards decomposing stories down to the same size. I feel like this describes the same thing through difference lenses.

Is this not estimating?

When you ask the question "will this take less than 11 days?" that is the same thing as asking, "is this story small" and is an estimate by any other name. I feel like it's actually less data driven than a consistent measure.

Equally, 11-day long stories make me feel nervous, frankly, as once things get that big, they tend to spiral out.


Honestly, I think your comment outlines another valid approach, that still encapsulates a degree of certainty and estimation, but uses other language, rather than is a significant shift away from estimation - and shares the characteristic of aiming to increase predictability.

Thanks for taking the time :) :)