In this episode, we explore the use of NoEstimates approaches in a regulated and governmental environment.
When Craeg and his team was called in to the Social Security administration, they were asked to help the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) assess the use of software development methods in an environment where the teams were adopting Agile methodologies, but the overall governance still followed the old school, linear (aka waterfall) methodologies.
When the OIG is involved, it usually means that the organization being audited needs to prove that they are taking good care of public money invested in their processes. Therefore the challenge was to ensure that the teams were both following the Agile practices they said they had adopted, as well as taking the necessary actions to ensure proper use of public funds.
Using NoEstimates to increase accountability
As Craeg and the team started to work with the software development organization, they discovered a critical contradiction: the approval of projects (including scope definition and budgeting) was done by a different entity than the entity developing the software. Furthermore, the teams, using Agile, had little use for the extensive documentation created when defining and approving the project. What Craeg saw was the worst of both worlds: too much up front planning and commitments, done without the teams’ involvement; and to top it all off, the teams could not use the extensive documentation created because it was not created to support the use of Agile methods.
However, the question “when will it be done?”, still needed to be answered! This is when Craeg and team started to look for options in the Kanban and NoEstimates community. Craeg started to propose some of the practices described in the NoEstimates book, and using those to answer the “when will it be done?” question.
In this segment, we also talk about forecasting, and the use of techniques like Montecarlo simulation.
Introducing NoEstimates to government, step by step
When Craeg and team joined the Social Security Administration, they had to create a basis of knowledge to help both the auditors as well as the teams learn to use NoEstimates. After a period of training delivery, they started to focus on concrete steps to enable forecasting and the use of NoEstimates. With a mix of sizing, just-in-time refinement with the Agile teams they were able to build the basis for tracking of progress.
This enabled a discussion around scope, and the different levels of scope management: from Portfolio level to the day-to-day User Story level. In this segment, we talk about the concept of Flight Levels by Klaus Leopold.
As Craeg puts it: “There is a way to cut the Gordian knot and understand and manage a scope and deliver to deadlines!” And that is NoEstimates!
About Craeg Strong
Craeg Strong is the CTO of Ariel Partners, a woman-owned IT consulting company based in Times Square. He is currently teaching classes in Kanban, Test Automation, and Human Centered Design, helping organizations transform themselves by connecting strategy with execution, handling dependencies, and improving quality. He has 25 years of experience in information technology, starting at Project Athena during his undergraduate studies at MIT. Craeg recently helped teach 1200 Air Force personnel Jira and Agile.