I’ve had a long career with estimates in software projects. While it’s been a rocky journey, I now feel that I’ve gotten to the point where I truly understand how to and the value of estimation.
But before I give you the great reveal, let me share some of my history…
I first began my career as a newbie in estimation. I fell into the trap of being as honest as a could be and I found that my estimates were often used against me. For example:
My bosses would often forget the “fine print” around the estimates. Words like – “this is only a guess until I get more formal requirements. Or, I’ve never done this before, so I really don’t know how long it will take” were never remembered. Imagine that?
People who had not a clue would weigh in on my estimates. Bosses, who were under pressure to release quickly, would cut them. And project managers, who were trying to “defend” the project, would pad them. And my developer colleagues, who always had an optimistic spin on things, their estimates would always be lower than my own. Imagine that?
And I always felt that nobody wanted the “truth” in estimates. That they couldn’t handle it. So, it negatively influenced me to pad/cut depending on the situation. But the key point is the inherent dishonesty I felt around all estimate discussions. Early on, it felt like a game of sorts. Where the last one that weighed in on a number…won. And the development team…generally lost. Imagine that?
But as in all things, I grew in my experience and in my career. Soon, around the late 1980’s, I became a “manager”. Which meant that I not only had to estimate for myself but for my group(s) as well. This showed me both sides of the estimation continuum and frankly, I didn’t like it much.
Often agile organizations take the position that the Managers, Leaders, or the Scrum Masters are responsible for keeping the team focused and energized towards their work. And yes, these roles can play a part in keeping the teams passion and energy focused towards doing great work.
But I’ve found that another role can really make a difference here as well. One that is rarely suggested for this sort of nuance. That role is the Product Owner.
To make my point, I’d like to share a dozen “opportunities” for a Scrum Product Owner to make a difference within their teams. Is the list exhaustive? Probably not. But that’s not the intent. The intent is to get Product Owners thinking outside the role of backlogs, user stories, and delivery. And instead thinking about ways where they can play a key role in the engagement, joy, energy, passion, focus, and results of their teams.
Yes, I just added another large responsibility to an already overwhelming role. Sorry about that.
Do you recall the … Jim Carrey movie called Yes Man? In it he was influenced by a ‘cult’ of sorts that recommended an approach, in order to change our lives, where we have to say YES to everything – every question, every opportunity, and every inquiry.
The point is somewhat captured in the agile posture of “Yes, and…” that many coaches subscribe to.
Lately I’ve been thinking about traditional software leaders who are moving towards agile methods. Typically they take a class or workshop to gain a cursory understanding of agility. Some even take more ‘advanced’ workshops, which are focused towards the leadership shift.
I watch my fair share of TV shows that surround real-world business and projects. I’ve noticed a theme that I want to share to see if you see it the way I do. So here are a few examples:
Fast ‘n Loud is a show on Discovery Channel here in the US. It’s about a garage that takes in “needy” cars and refurbishes them for resale.
The owner of Gas Monkey Garage is Richard Rawlings. In the episodes he generally is scouring the countryside for fixer upper cars that have up-side profit potential.
I’m often quite wordy in my blogs. I’ll pose an initial question in the title, throw out a thousand words or so, and then present a conclusion. I’m not going to do that here. Instead I’ll be much more succinct.
Is forecasting evil in agile portfolios?
The context for this conclusion and subsequent discussion is three-fold:
- Forecasting when you are just building your agile teams OR are in the early stages of an agile transformation;
- And, when you’ve been doing agile for awhile, and you’ve become overconfident with your capacity awareness;
- And forecasting in this sense is anyone determining how large or how long something will take and NOT fully engaging their team in the estimation, planning and forecasting.