Sunday, 29 March 2015

Not estimating can also be problematic

Let me start by saying that I'm all for trying things. Try. Evaluate. Learn. When you've read this post you'll forget I have said this, maybe because I'm contradicting myself. I don't know.

Anyway, I'll tell you a story. I once worked as a software developer at a product company. We developed a hardware firewall/ADSL-modem. I didn't work as a consultant/contractor back then. It was a small company, like 20 people. Around 5-7 software developers working on the product.

Anyway, I almost never estimated the work I was planned to do. It was like "We really need to get this next thing done, please make sure it gets done" (not exactly of course, and in a rather friendly tone, actually). I admit, it sometimes felt kind of nice back then. But it wasn't always good. Because there still were expectations (and that is kind of why my opinion is that "no estimates" doesn't really exist). And when things took a little bit longer than someone (somehow) expected, it felt even worse. Because I "didn't meet the expectations". And I was pretty junior back then. And also because I hadn't really had the chance to say or claim anything about what I thought the effort was. I would probably have felt bad even if I'd had the chance (or not, if my claim about the effort had been close to correct). But not estimating didn't help either.

I don't know if we really were doing #NoEstimates? Probably not (because there were estimates at some level in the end after all). But I did not estimate most of the work I did, so I guess it kind of counts..?

So, if someone is planning on letting go of estimates. I'd advice don't just try it. Make sure everyone is on board with that decision. Someone might actually not like that decision. I guess that's kind of obvious, though. And no one is saying that you shouldn't do that. It's just an advice, or perhaps something to think about at least.

I guess my point is that if "dysfunctions" isn't solved, letting go of estimates might perhaps solve some problems, but you might also create other ones. And also, if you don't estimate, someone else probably will (for you), and that might feel even worse (for some). So, I don't know, probably the entire organization needs to be on board with the decision? I don't really know, it's just my experience. Guess the goal is to always keep a close feedback loop, but I'm not sure that it will remove the "expectations" of "the next thing that really needs to get done"? Or perhaps the solution is to make sure everyone is on board with not having expectations of anything? Maybe the solution is to always say: "I will have something of value to show you tomorrow"? Will that somehow remove the expectations? Or maybe the solution is to say something like "Sit here and help me make sure it gets done". Is that possible? Maybe. Maybe not. Or maybe something completely else?

Please try for yourself! I guess I'm a bit reluctant to try again myself though (coward!). But hey, times changes! :-)

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