Monday, 24 February 2014

#NoEstimates is not for me..?

I'm really curious about the #NoEstimates movement, but I can't really get my head around it. What is it? Do we even need to know what it is..? I'm not sure.
Is it: "Don't estimate in any part of the project - from idea to implementation"? Or is it: "Use estimates in a way that is useful for us"?
I don't know. I've written some posts about no estimates, but I've realized I've only stated the problems, not any solutions that correlate to no estimates. Not in a sense that they are about *no* estimates, at least. I've only stated how to do estimates differently.

My issue

The root cause for me with how estimates are used is that they become promises and commitments. The problem with that is that these things easily creates pressure. Pressure that may lower creativity, new ideas, quality etc. You know how it is... I don't know what your issue with estimates are, but this is my biggest problem.

One "solution" (but not related to #NoEstimates)

I think we need to change. We - developers/managers ourselves - are the main reason estimates are treated as commitments and not what they really are: *estimates*. Note that what I will write next fits me, it doesn't necessarily have to fit you or your situation.
This is how I've been doing, and how I think many are doing:
When a customer (or whoever, in the end, are paying us) wants to know how much it will cost (or how long it will take) they usually don't what to know in detail what it will cost, they just want a rough sense. Because, they don't really care what it will cost in detail. But even so, this is how we usually respond: "We'll have to get back to you about this. We will look at it and get back to you next week with an estimated cost." And next week we come back with the figure (and usually a gantt chart): "We have looked at this and we estimated it to 1140 hours with the cost of [1140 x hourly cost]."
What is the problem with this approach? If I where to put on my customers shoes, how can this behavior be interpreted as anything else than a commitment? Someone (we) have put time to come up with a very exact number. My feeling would be: "These guys/girls really seem to know what they are talking about! How can they know this? Let's not ask, they seem professional. This is great!"
So, how should we do then? Well, this is only my opinion, I'm not saying this is the right way. But it could work.
Give them that *rough* feeling they are really asking for - straight away!: "I think this is about a couple of months of work. But it's just a rough feeling." They might actually be fine with that answer, and it can't as easily be interpreted as anything else than an estimate. And if they want a more "detailed" estimate, they have to ask for it, and then we can say: "Yes, but it will probably not be more accurate than my initial rough feeling. But if you want to pay us for doing that, we can do it. But whatever we provide, it will probably still be as uncertain as my initial feeling."
I don't know, it might work. But is it NoEstimates? No, just estimates done differently.

Other approaches

I've read other approaches, under the #NoEstimates flag, to come up with an answer to the question of "How much/How long?"
But, as we can't know in advance what something will cost or how long it will take - if we respond and how ever we came up with a respond: it's an estimate. Period. That's why I don't get NoEstimates. Can we provide an answer to "How much/How long?" without guessing the future? I can't even imagine that. That's why NoEstimates is not for me, at least not right now. But I will still follow the movement :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment