Monday, July 23, 2018

Sizing Groups Based on Volume

I've been reluctant to read my twitter timeline for the last few days. The reason is simple. There is an intensive discussion going on between two people I follow and respect, and the way they discuss things looks to me like they are talking past one another and really not listening. There was a part of the discussion I could not avoid though and it was around a claim that:
NoEstimates crowd is a small loud minority.
I don't really have measures, and I definitely don't have enough interest to invest my time into measuring this. But I'm part of that claimed minority, I just generally don't feel like being loud about it. And I most definitely don't want anything to do with the related discussion culture of meanness, shouting, and insults that seem to be associated with that hashtag. The people against NoEstimates come off as outright mean and abusive, and I've taken some hits just by mentioning it - learned my lesson really soon.

You can be loud on a conference stage, with your voice amplified as you're given the big stage. I listened to one popular speaker this spring, who used a significant portion of their talk on ridiculing people in the No Estimates space mentioning them by name, and felt very uncomfortable. It could be me they are ridiculing and I don't think ridiculing even when it makes people laugh hard in the talk is the way we should be delivering our messages, no matter how much we disagree.

Y'all should know that volume is not how you size up a group. And that size of the group shouldn't matter because there should be places where it is ok to do things in a different way without feeling attacked. It's my right to be stupid in ways I choose.

I've been seeking for options of wasting my time on estimating for more than 10 years. You could claim it is about me being bad at it, or not trying all the awesome things. I've been part of projects that did Function Point Analysis and I still think that was awful. I've been part of projects that did work breakdown structures, estimating each item we broke into, but the problem with that is that the items remain vague and instead of supporting a continuous delivery of most important part of value, they have created me big chunks of work hard to split value-wise. We've used past data of all sorts. And I've wasted a big chunk of my life creating stuff that I don't believe to be of any value, just because someone else thinks it will be good and I'm generally open to experiencing everything once.

The question about NoEstimates for me boils down to opportunity cost. What else, again, could I get with the time used on estimating? Are there options that would be better?

15 years ago one Friday afternoon, I sat down with my bottle of diet coke at the office coffee table. I had two colleagues join me with their coffee cups. One of them started the discussion.

"I'm going to be doing some overtime during this weekend", they said. "The product owner needs estimates on this Chingimagica Feature, and they need it for a decision on Monday", they continued.

We looked at the fellow, excited on the Chingimagica Feature, willing to sacrifice a major chunk of their weekend and almost unanimously quoted "Sustainable pace" and the general idea that giving up your weekends was almost always a bad idea. But they didn't mind, this was interesting, important and they had all the info that the product owner would need.

So we made a joke out of it. We took out post-it notes, and the other two of us wrote down the estimate for Chingimagica, each on a post-it note. We did not show our notes to the others, but just said we'd hand them out on Monday when their work of weekend was done.

They used 10 hours to create a detailed breakdown structure, and analyze the cost.

Monday came, and we compared. We all had same estimate. They had more detail to why it came to what it did, but it was still the same.

That was when finding better ways of working became evident.

It is ok that some people feel strongly about estimating, and some of them may be very successful with them. I see the morale decline in projects close to me that focus on estimates over continuous delivery, and feel I need to help us stop paying relevant money for something that hurts people.