Friday, 20 April 2018

On varieties of thought in #NoEstimates

Post 1 from my #NoEstimates blogging backlog

What differences of thought do we see in the #NoEstimates community? How deep do those differences go?

Reading the material in my bibliography and available on Twitter, I see slightly different positions taken by various #NoEstimates proponents. I see two apparent differences: the strength of their #NoEstimates position, and the actual objections to estimation.

Strength of #NoEstimates position

  • We should always eliminate estimates.
  • Can we find something better than estimates? (But if they work for you that's fine.)

I could characterise the first as Hard #NoEstimates, as it's a prescription for all practitioners, and the second as Soft #NoEstimates. I don't mean to impugn anyone as either Hard or Soft - if you dislike these terms I'll be grateful if you can help me find others :)

While there's an overt difference, I think it's a difference in personality and style rather than intent. For a Soft #NE advocate "just asking questions", if those questions are consistently about the value/validity of estimates, under the #NoEstimates banner, backed by claims of multiple years since their last estimate, I think they're pushing a position just as hard as their Hard #NE confederates.

Objections to estimation

  • Estimates are ineffective (therefore a waste at best, and misleading at worst).
  • Estimates are a sign of (and possibly a cause of) organisational dysfunction.
  • Estimation damages trust and/or team dynamics.

Ineffectiveness seems to be the core of the Soft case. The Hard case leans on dysfunction as well, hence its strong prescription to avoid estimates.

Hard proponents are also starting to make claims about team dynamics, eg, the suggestion that requests for estimates kill trust:

Despite these different objections, I don't recall seeing a #NE advocate disagree with another. That's in sharp contrast to the Agile community as a whole (eg You're doing Scrum wrong or TDD/BDD/both/neither), or even the broader Software Development community (Agile/Waterfall). In a community of practitioners exploring new ways of working, especially one whose members make different arguments in public, I would expect to see disagreement. ie critical appraisal of one anothers' thought.

The basis for these statements is not always obvious.


Whether you're a #NoEstimates proponent or critic, I think it's important to understand that the hashtag encompasses more than a singular opinion.

That said, regardless of specific arguments (objections to estimates) or style (strength of argument) it's also not clear to me that these really are different positions at all.

I'd be interested to hear of disagreements in the #NoEstimates community, which would indicate critical appraisal of one anothers' thought, rather than the apparent bloc approach I've seen up to now.

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