One of the suggestions in #NoEstimates is the slicing of work - either Stories or any word needed to indicate an agile projects chunking of the work - into small pieces. This of course doesn't actually address the issue of producing and Estimate at Completion for the project. An estimate needed by those funding or authorizing the spending of funds to know how much and when.
But slicing is a process of reducing the exposure to uncertainty to a manageable size. It's the next level down's answer to what's the value at risk? Make in small and reduce the value at risk of not showing up on time and on budget. Slicing answers the question, that has been around for some time.
How long are you willing to wait till you find out you are late (or over budget, or it doesn't work as planned)?
The answer to this - how long - question varies according to the domain, value at risk, and other factors usually associated with risk tolerance. But it is a question that must be answered periodically (month;y for us) Recently this notion of slicing has been put forth as part of the solution to the estimating problem, which of course it's not. Since the size of the work chunks only reducing the uncertainty of the variance. Both the aleatory (irreducible uncertainty) and epistemic (reducible uncertainty) will be less when the exposure to the uncertainty is smaller. Beneficial to the project for sure. But the total all in cost and schedule are related to the slicing size only by the cumulative variance of the parts.
It many be interesting to know, that slicing is part of ANSI-748 Earned Value Management assessment by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA). DCMA is the DOD agency that validates the Earned Value Management System's 32 Guidelines. DCMA performs a 14-point assessment of the Integrated Master Schedule (integrated because it is connected to the cost based) and the Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB) (the time phased planned budget for all the work).
DCMA Check 8 looks for high duration activities. These are know to cause issues with the exposure to programmatic risk for the program. The 44 day number represents 2 working months. The work then passes through one accounting period (monthly submission of the Integrated Program Management Report). At the end of each accounting period an assessment of Percent Complete is used to calculate the Budgeted Cost of Work Performed (BCWP) - the earned value for the tasks, works packages, and control accounts (funding buckets) for the program. 44 days may sound long for an agile software development project, but 44 days is short on a multi-year, many millions and likley billions of dollars of defesnse work.
Since the agile comminity is fond of saying there is nothing new here, while suggesting their ideas are new and unique, the above clip is from the DCMA guide, long used in our defense program management paradigm.
So it is worth repeating the principle of asking how long you are willing to wait before you find out something. The rule of thumb is to sample the status of the thing you are controlling are a rate twice your needed to control or determine a value. This is called the Nyquist rate from single processing. Signal processing is where I grew up writing software for Fast Fourier Transforms, Finite Impulse Response Filter, Kalman Filters for particle physics data streaming off the particle accelerator. When I didn't have an orginal idea to finish my PhD studies, I switched to writing the same software for radar signals intelligence, and electroninc warfare systems. Same principles work for any control system including a management control system.
Just as an aside in the control systems paradigm, there is discussion about monitoring and decision making from the information gathered from the monitoring. This is an Open Loop control systems. Without a planned value to seek, the SET POINT if you're using the room thermostat analogy, monitoring the value provide no value, since you don't know what you are seeking the system to do. Just monitoring is Open Loop, you've got numbers from the system the room temperature or the number of stories produced, but no target to control against.
To have a closed loop system, you need a SET POINT, a steering target, a goal, a desired outcome. Then the monitoring - sampling - can produce a variance, a difference between goal and actual - by which you cn take action. Raise or lower the temperature, speed up or sloe down the car, speed up or slow down the production of software outputs. Yes you can go too fast, the down stream user can't take the results and by the time they can, the requirements may have changed. This is the Closed Loop Control.