“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)
When we hear
The idea behind the #NoEstimates approach to software development isn't to eliminate estimates but, rather, to explore other ways to solve problems without specifically asking, 'How long will it take?'
We first need to ask by what principle of decision making in the presence of uncertainty, what kind of business project has no interest in how long will it take? The answer seems to be a de minimis project.
Because in the real world not Wonderland with Unicorns, those paying have some sense of where they want to go, how much they are willing to pay, how long they are willing to wait to get there, and what value will be produced by their investment. De Minimis projects have no concern for those answers.
And those spending that customers money appear not very interested in applying known solutions, instead are answering with the Cheshire Cat's words, since the No Estimates advocates appear to live in Wonderland.
For those interested in learning how to produce credible Estimates and make decisions in the presence of uncertainty, here's some starting places that have served me well:
- How to Measure Anything, Douglas Hubbard.
- The Flaw of Averages - Why We Underestimate Risk in the Face of Uncertainty, Sam L. Savage.
- Forecasting and Simulating Software Development Projects: Effective Modeling of Kanban and Scrum Projects Using Monte Carlo Simulation, Troy Magennis.
- Decision Analysis for Management Judgement, Paul Goodwin and George Wright.
There are many dozens of other books, and 100's of papers describing how to make estimates in the presence of uncertainty.
After you do some reading and you hear someone say, estimates are hard, estimates are guesses, estimates are always wrong. estimates are a waste, we can decide with estimates, you'll know they didn't read any of these, haven't a clue what they're talking about, and just making things up as the go. Just like the cat