#NoEstimates to address misuse of estimates only treats the symptoms
Scrum helps you cure from the misuse of estimates altogether
There are basically three reasons to be interested in #NoEstimates:
- When no-one needs to know where the money is being spent on, why would you estimate?
- You are becoming so predictable that it doesn’t make sense to use story points as estimates anymore.
- Estimates are misused.
The issues with misuse of estimates is the most common reason.
Here is my issue with turning to #NoEstimates as alternative to misused estimating. I believe that the alternatives that are brought forward by #NoEstimates only treat the symptoms. They don’t help you to permanently fix the misuse.
Alternatives for estimating are like pain killers. You don’t feel the pain of the torn muscle. It won’t heal your muscle though. It is a short term fix. In the long term the issues will return if not treated well.
I argue that estimates are like the canary in the coal mine. You know that something is wrong with the Agile adoption by looking how estimates are treated. Instead of being seen as assessment of size or duration at a point in time with the known information at that time they are being seen as immutable or promises even, resulting into deadlines.
Rather than seeking for ways to avoid estimating I advise to eliminate the incentives to misuse estimates all along. You can achieve this with Scrum.
Scrum as a permanent cure
Scrum — and other Agile approaches — is all about self-organising teams:
“Self-organizing teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team.” — Scrum Guide 2017
As a result the people that do the work determine what to pick up:
“The number of items selected from the Product Backlog for the Sprint is solely up to the Development Team. Only the Development Team can assess what it can accomplish over the upcoming Sprint.” — Scrum Guide 2017
This means that no-one can tell the Scrum Team to stick to promises that they never made.
Another — fundamental — topic is the notion of empiricism:
“In complex environments, what will happen is unknown.” — Scrum Guide 2017
“Scrum is founded on empirical process control theory, or empiricism. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is known. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and control risk. Three pillars uphold every implementation of empirical process control: transparency, inspection, and adaptation.” — Scrum Guide 2017
This means that you can’t commit to delivery dates for a set of requirements months from now. And this is one of the main pain-points of estimate misuse. However, any alternative for estimates (like doing probabilistic forecasting) will either be a temporary relief OR bound to be misused too if empiricism isn’t understood and embraced.
Only through realising that complex environments require an empirical approach you will permanently cure from estimate misuse.
#NoEstimates comes with certain alternatives to estimating. Those alternatives can be very useful. However if misuse of estimates was your reason to embrace the alternatives, keep in mind that these alternatives might not fix your issues. These issues — related to not understanding empiricism and self-organisation — can be fixed though, by doing a proper implementation of Scrum including an understanding of Scrum.