Simplicity and Perspective

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. — Albert Einstein

Dave Rooney recently bemoaned on Twitter about how complicated people make things, pointing in particular to a thread on the scrumdevelopment yahoogroup.  It’s a thread that started with a question about a team wanting to adjust the Sprint Backlog in-sprint when something changed about their capacity to complete the work.  From there it spawned a long discussion about various ways to estimate the work and commit to it.

To me, most of these approaches to estimation are more complicated than is necessary.  Some go into detailed calculations that are far more complicated than what most teams do.  I could tell you a really simple technique, but I suspect most teams aren’t ready for extreme simplicity, yet.

That’s OK with me.  If they spend a bit more time and effort figuring out what they can do in the next sprint, that’s probably not a big deal.  And as they notice they’re not getting much value from the time they spend estimating, they’ll want to do something about it.  At that time, it will be important enough to be the next issue to tackle.

One of the proponents of an especially involved calculation said

The other thing I many have not mentioned previously is that in this company, this senior guy (an American) does not like it when people disagree with him and is known for having got people fired for not agreeing with him…This the reason why everyone is careful when they are in planning poker, which, for this reason, does not work as intended as an open discussion opportunity…

Oh, dear! This estimation calculation is a technical solution to a people problem.  While it may get them through the planning meeting with a selection of stories to be implemented, it doesn’t deal with any of the myriad of problems caused by such a bully.

When one prima donna throws his weight around intimidates others, you’ll never have a Real Team.  People can’t rely on each other.  They can’t share their thoughts, ideas, and misgivings.  Agile development is a team sport and such behavior is the death of teamwork.

Let’s face it, if you’ve got fundamental problems like this, then the estimation strategy doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

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