We explore a real-life project that Marcus was part of, and how the #NoEstimates methods he used helped him make predictions, even if did not estimate the work to be done.
This conversation started from an article that Marcus had posted earlier on social media. In that article Marcus explained how he had used data, as opposed to estimates to make a prediction of when the project would be finished. This approach still creates a lot of controversy on twitter, even if it has been (at the time of recording) 10+ years since the original discussion around estimates started by Woody Zuill and Vasco Duarte on twitter under the tags of #NoEstimates and #Estwaste respectively.
As Marcus quickly found out in this project, the rate of progress could not have been predicted easily at the start (if at all). When he first started the project, the progress was swift, but at one point he faced a problem he could not solve for several days. This phenomenon is not new for any programmers in the audience, and is quite common. Also, one of the reasons why using methods like #NoEstimates (as explained in the #NoEstimates book, and in Marcus’ blog post), can help uncover information that estimation would not.
Dealing with surprises: the information you need to share with stakeholders
As it usually happens, Marcus had a deadline he needed to meet: he was producing a programming course material package that, if not delivered, would mean that course could not be held at the School of Applied Technology (SALT) which he is part of.
As he started to collect and present the data to his stakeholders, Marcus got the time, and space he needed to complete the project. However, showing this data was a critical part of having his own stakeholders stopping the interruptions that would ultimately make him fail to deliver the course material.
The #NoEstimates approach that Marcus describes is also one of the reasons why many teams report better transparency and communication with their stakeholders. Surprises are inevitable even in small knowledge work projects (like delivering software or writing course material, in this case), and having a clear way to communicate progress (even when the news are not good) to stakeholders is one of the key tools we must have in place. Everybody is late, sooner or later. It’s those that know how to communicate that early, that can overcome delays with the help of their stakeholders.
Everybody is late, sooner or later. It’s those that know how to communicate that early, that can overcome delays with the help of their stakeholders.
The psychology of presenting data
When it comes to preparing and showing data to stakeholders, however, we must be aware that not all methods work. Dan and Marcus share their lessons on what they’ve seen working and point us to approaches and tools we can use to create a compelling presentation for the data we collect during the project.
In this segment, discuss The Flaw of Averages: Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty by Samuel L. Savage, When will it be done? By Dan Vacanti and the NoEstimates book, all of which describe approaches to collecting, processing and presenting data about progress to stakeholders.
About Dan Vacanti and Marcus Hammarberg
Daniel Vacanti is a 20+ year software industry veteran who has spent most of the last years focusing on Lean and Agile practices. In 2007, he helped to develop the Kanban Method for knowledge work. He also co-founded ActionableAgile which provides industry leading predictive analytics tools and services to any Lean-Agile process. Dan co-founded ProKanban.org a community focused initiative to help people learn about Kanban.
Marcus Hammarberg is the author of Salvation: The Bungsu Story (available on Amazon), an inspiring and actionable story about how simple tools can help transform the productivity and impact of an organization. The real-life stories in The Bungsu can help you transform the productivity of your team. Marcus is also a renowned author in the Kanban community, he authored the book Kanban in Action with Joakim Sundén. Head of Curriculum School of applied technology.