What do we actually estimate?

— Bringing the process to the next level, part II

So at the daily scrum, the day after, the team felt they had energized a lot during the workstop guestimating. Their finest outcome, and I quote:

What do we actually estimate?

Man, I loved this one. This proves me, we are getting the hang of it. So how did we start to get to a higher level of energy?

Relative estimating
Relative estimating

We started with a small game on estimating. An example of some buildings in Londen, relatively compared to each other in height. The house is 8m. high, while the GLA-building is 45m. high. That is approximately five times the height of the private residence. Not presice, accurate enough. Or the Gherkin, being 180m. high, is app. 20 times the height of the house AND four times the height of the GLA-building. Again, not precise, but accurate.

Having this as an example we moved on to the concept of walking points (not story points yet)

Walking Points

Given four examples, the team need to figure out how to get from A to B, with one contraint: start & stop together.

  • Walk to a house in a straight line
  • Walk to the next house in a straight line that is further away
  • Walk to a third house, approximately the same distance as the house in the 2nd example. Only, you need to cross some train tracks.
  • Walk to the fourth house, also approximately the same distance as house two and three. Only, there has been and earthquake and a big pool of lava has emerged from underneath. Luckily a small stone bridge is spanning the lava. No railing, 30 centimers in witdh so you need to cross single-file. And remember: START together, STOP together.

This examples invites the team to start a conversation. Amongst themselves, but also with the product owner, on the expected outcome, is it worth taking the risk? Does the train track have signaling? Can we get a time table? And so on and so on.

During this exploration, the team discovers that estimates are influenced by:

  • Effort
  • Complexity
  • Risk
  • Uncertainty

There are more, for the learning, this outcome is fine. So getting back to the question:

What do we actually estimate?

There is your answer. Address what might come onto your path, discuss if it can have an impact on the estimate, on the desired outcome, validate amy assumptions and finally give it the estimate you, as team, thinks it deserves. At that moment in time, with the knowledge you have a that moment in time.

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