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In this episode, we explore the story of a team that started to question the way they did estimates. The PO would use the estimations provided by the team to make a certain number of assumptions and reports that just did not correspond to reality. In the quest to solve that problem, the team started to experiment with different approaches, and naturally evolved to a #NoEstimates approach. Carsten explains the steps the team went through as well as the insights at each step. A self-organized change story on adopting #NoEstimates!
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About Carsten Lützen
Carsten is an Agile Coach at the LEGO Group. Before that a Scrum Master for different teams. He has a deep love of graphical facilitation and professional coaching. Besides his full-time job, he shares weekly tips on YouTube and LinkedIn on Agile, Facilitation, and Coaching.
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
Maryse Meinen shares her journey into agile and lean methodologies, highlighting a pivotal moment at her first international conference where she attended a workshop on #NoEstimates led by Seb Rose. The workshop’s quiz on estimating the distance from Earth to the moon led her to an epiphany about the common tendency to provide estimates even when uncertain, driven by peer pressure—an insight that spurred her to experiment with the #NoEstimates approach.
A Real-World Example of Success
Maryse describes her experience with a new team tasked with developing an infrastructure solution without relying on traditional estimates. By focusing on conversations, card confirmations (the 3 C’s of User Stories), and refining story points to either 1 or 0 based on whether a story was refined, the team managed to prioritize work more effectively. The practice of making items as small as possible and focusing on delivering value in various forms proved to be beneficial.
Challenges in Implementation
The biggest challenge in implementing #NoEstimates was not from management or stakeholders, but rather from inexperienced scrum masters resistant to deviating from traditional estimation techniques. Maryse found success by allowing the team space to operate independently and focusing on outcomes rather than estimates.
Impact on Planning and Prioritization
Shifting the focus from estimates to value delivered led to a significant change in how Maryse’s team approached planning and prioritization. By setting sprint goals around solving real problems for real people, the team moved away from a task-centric to a value-centric approach. One of the core tenants of the #NoEstimates approach.
Measuring Progress Without Estimates
Maryse’s team measured progress by the problems they solve, framing sprint goals around these problems and communicating achievements in terms of value delivered to stakeholders, rather than in traditional estimation-driven progress metrics, like tasks completed – which would not necessarily deliver any value to end-users and customers.
Advice and Resources for #NoEstimates
Maryse encourages teams to start experimenting with #NoEstimates and emphasizes the importance of continuous learning and adaptation. She recommends engaging with the #NoEstimates community on Twitter and exploring resources by Allan Kelly and Seb Rose, as well as the NoEstimates book.
About Maryse Meinen
Maryse is an Product Owner dedicated to fostering experimentation, agility, and empathy within organizations. She builds and facilitates great teams, coaches leaders, and believes in simplicity and human-centric methodologies. With expertise in Lean/agile development and a passion for teaching, she shapes adaptive and learning-focused cultures.
Luis Garcia, transitioning from estimation discomfort to a #NoEstimates approach as a product owner, discovered its benefits after attending a workshop by Woody Zuill. Faced with the challenges of hard commitments in government projects, he sought to shift focus from when to what and why in project discussions.
A Transformative Project Example
Implementing #NoEstimates in a kanban team, Luis emphasized work breakdown and comfortable task sizing. This method facilitated stakeholder communication, improved expectation management, and enabled precise progress measurement through metrics like cycle time and using techniques like Monte Carlo forecasting.
Overcoming Implementation Challenges
When Luis tried to introduce #NoEstimates, he originally faced skepticism, misconceptions about planning, and stakeholder resistance. In those cases, Luis advises focusing on forecasting based on available data, ensuring team stability, and managing expectations effectively. And focusing on progress transparency, instead of trying to change people’s minds.
Strategic Stakeholder Management
Successfully integrating #NoEstimates involved fostering team accountability and ownership over the refinement process, thereby enhancing stakeholder dialogue and planning efficiency. For example, Luis shares that #NoEstimates shifted the team’s focus to identifying and preparing the most valuable tasks, leveraging data for all planning and prioritization decisions. This focus helped to keep stakeholders informed, and improved transparency.
Measuring Success and Communicating Progress
Without traditional estimates, Luis’s team adopted a probabilistic approach to measure and communicate progress, supported by insights from the book “Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke.
When it came to adopting a different way to measure and communicate progress, practicality was key; even simple tools like Excel were effective for data management in the #NoEstimates process, emphasizing simplicity and scalability.
Advice for #NoEstimates Adopters
Luis recommends low-change experimentation with #NoEstimates to experience its benefits firsthand and stresses the importance of informative discussions over rigid planning.
Luis is a Program Manager at Formula.Monks, specializes in developing impactful digital products. Luis has over 10 years of experience and several Agile certifications, he adeptly applies Agile frameworks to meet client needs. His background includes a Master’s in Computer Engineering and an Executive MBA. He is also fluent in English, Spanish, and French, he values diverse work environments and continuous learning.
Lee Beckett shares his journey from coder to Product Owner (PO), and how his diverse experience led him to question the effectiveness of traditional estimation techniques in agile environments. He discusses the adoption of a #NoEstimates approach, highlighting its benefits in simplifying processes and focusing on delivering value.
Lee illustrates how abandoning estimates, except for significant items, streamlined project workflows and improved team dynamics. This approach fostered a culture of trust and transparency, crucial for managing stakeholder expectations and focusing on product delivery.
Challenges and Solutions
Implementing #NoEstimates was surprisingly straightforward for Lee’s team, emphasizing the importance of establishing trust and transparency with stakeholders from the outset.
Lee stresses honesty in forecasting and advises giving stakeholders meaningful insights rather than fixed dates to help manage expectations effectively.
After adopting #NoEstimates, the team’s planning focused on work discussion rather than assigning numerical values, allowing for more flexible and goal-oriented sprint planning.
Without traditional estimates, the team measures progress through product delivery and stakeholder feedback, ensuring a focus on value creation.
Lee advises teams to ensure open communication and clear prioritization with stakeholders before moving to #NoEstimates, ensuring a foundation for success.
For those interested in exploring #NoEstimates further, Lee recommends the “Agile for Humans” podcast, particularly the interview with Josh Anderson and Ryan Ripley.
About Lee Beckett
Lee Beckett, has over 17 years of experience in digital product development, and is a certified Product Owner and Lean Practitioner. Skilled in setting product goals and managing backlogs, Lee excels in guiding teams through the product lifecycle and fostering a culture of empiricism and learning in agile environments.