Is Agile estimating and planning a waste of time?

Episode 118 - 14 Mar 2018

Today’s episode is the first of several on the subject of Estimation and Estimating.

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Having spent much of my (coding) career side-stepping the issue, I think I’m finally ready to meet it head on.


In an Agile World.

It’s causing you a lot of pain

I’ll tell you how I know

right after this.

My name is Gary Straughan

Welcome to Development That Pays

And welcome to the first of several episode

on the subject of estimating.

When I asked you - at the end of last year - about your Agile frustrations.

… there were more mentions of estimating / estimation

than any other subject.

So my task was clear:

an episode or three on estimation.

Which gives me a bit of a problem.

1 - I am a developer

2 - I HATE estimating

I go to great lengths to avoid it.

Or so I thought

until something caught my eye….

This is the back door of my house.

It’s in a terrible state of repair.

It hasn’t been properly maintained

It hasn’t been properly maintained… on purpose.

And that’s because we’ve been planning to replace these doors.

For more than a decade.

So each time the exterior woodwork is painted,

we’ve missed this one out.

What the heck have these doors got to do with estimation?

Because these doors - or rather - their replacement

have been a major cause of estimating.

By me!

You see, we don’t want to just change the doors.

We want to do something different.

A different style of door.

And we’re even thinking of opening up the gap

for a better view of the garden.

So I’ve been juggling the various costs of different door styles:

Bi-fold, sliding, Crittall, pivot.

I even looked at this rather wonderful design

And all the above… in different sizes

Factoring in the cost of the building work

to install a lintel and open up the gap.

Hold on a sec! What’s going on here?

Well, I’m juggling options to try to get the best combination for the lowest cost.

Oh. You mean:

How come the “Developer That Won’t Estimate”

is quite happy to estimate

in his free time?

It comes down to roles.

What role am I playing here?

I guess my role is somewhere between “business owner” and “product owner”


Back to the replacement of these old doors project.

The next step will be to get someone around to quote for the job.

Here’s a conversation I’ve imagined:

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a developer.”


“I try.”

“Awesome. We love working that way too.”

“We’ll work with you to prioritise the work.”

“And it will be ready when it’s ready.”

“And it will be cost what it costs.”

“Sound good?”

Would you proceed on that basis?

What’s my point?

Whether we realise it or not, we all estimate all the time.

More important point:

We like to get estimates. We much less keen to provide an estimates.

Gary the home owner… likes to get estimates for home improvement projects Gary the developer… hates to provide estimates for software development projects

So is it time to Gary the Developer to put on big boy trousers

Get with the programme and start cranking out estimates?

No it isn’t.

And I’ll tell you exactly why it isn’t

at the beginning of the very next episode.