Monday, November 2, 2015

are we Afraid of estimation or commitment?

"We don't do estimation because we follow Kanban".

I am sure every coach must have heard this statement countless times.  Many teams moving from agile methodology to Kanban to simply escape from estimation. As per them, Estimation is:
  • Waste of time 
  • Useless 
  • Can be stressful
  • Considered harmful 
First of all, nowhere in Kanban it says, "no to estimate". It is up to the team. I am all for challenging the status quo and questioning everything. But is estimation really a waste? I believe estimation helps teams to stay focused. High level gut feeling always helps in decision making and prioritization. So why some teams are reluctant to do estimation? In most of the cases estimation gets abused or treated as commitment. This is completely wrong. The main goal behind estimation is to size your work queue and not hold team responsible. Mike Cohn has very nice article on it.

Teams might also be unwilling to estimate when they don't understand what they are estimating. So as coach we should be able to answer "why we are estimating?" I found few technique very useful while estimation discussion. Each of these tips can be used standalone and are very detailed topics on it's own: 
  • Story vs. Story Maps: Story at time does not tell the entire conversation. I found Story Maps to be more useful. Map only what you need to support your conversation. . Make sure team has discussed ways to tackle the problem at high level. ( Story Map technique). 
  • Brainstorm the problem enough to consider the solution. Making sure that there is nothing better out there (always within the scope and time boxed for sure). 
  • Focus on making Functional walking skeleton first. This is very important step. 
  • Have a high level plan to manage your budget. Budget should lead the timeline and strategy for development. Also will help team keeping focus
  • Create a Story Board and have in the room. 
I would suggest to keep the mind open to make sure estimation is being used in the way it is useful and meaningful.



  1. any chance the teams reluctant to estimation have been subject to ?

  2. I am confident 90% of the times, that is what happens. It is plain wrong and we should not do it. It's an organizational smell if it happens :D.