Estimates, Teams and Commitments

Teams for many years have been used to providing estimates and  being held accountable for meeting them and are frequently told that the estimates are far too big and to reduce them because “it cannot possibly take that long”.  To make matters worse these estimates have often been provided on the team’s behalf by people who will not do the work and little or no account has been paid to the amount of time that people are actually available to spend on the work.

I ask anyone reading this to let me know if they have ever been able to spend one full day working on nothing but the task in hand, without any interruptions at all, no phone calls, no emails., no brief chats.  If you have then you must be unique so come along and see me and I will happily buy you a drink 🙂

We must learn to separate our estimates from our commitments; we must also learn to allow the team who will do the work to provide the estimates and accept that the team who will do the work are best equipped to estimate the size of the work.  Why are we surprised when things do not arrive when expected especially when the definition of an estimate is “an approximate calculation or judgement of the value, number, quantity, or extent of something”; and on top of this the estimates have been given to teams, or teams have been told to cut them, or no account has been made for the difference between size and duration.

We must change this thinking.  We must allow the people who do the work to estimate the size of the work and we must allow them to be able to make a commitment that separates the size from the duration and no longer force our opinions onto teams; until we do this we will always be bitterly disappointed with the results.

To do this takes trust and courage, but by embracing courage and giving trust we will get more predictable results and ultimately have far better teams with more predictability of when work will be complete.  This can be a big step for many people who have been involved in IT for a long time, but it is a step that you will be glad to have made should you have the courage to take it.

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