The No Estimates Debate Distraction

If you haven’t stumbled across the no-estimates debate, you probably need to get a bit more involved in the Agile community (wherein it is practically unavoidable). Neil Killick has written some quality articles on no estimates and I thoroughly recommend that you read them as there are some interesting thoughts on removing estimates, ditching velocity and delivering some actual value.

“#NoEstimates is not about ditching estimates. It is about improving the way we work such that estimates become redundant.” – Neil Killick

So to clarify, I am not against the no-estimates concept at all and have been known in the past to move towards no-estimates using Everything is a Three and similar techniques.

The problem is, as the debate continues I see more and more people simply telling teams to stop estimating without taking time to consider the context. For example, if a team is spending practically no time on estimating or velocity calculations, there is very likely a more fruitful area to explore when eliminating waste. Changing a process for the sake of being in with the cool-crowd is likely to cause more problems than it solves because the change is being made before the problem has been detected – and if you don’t know the problem, you can’t design the experiment or the tests to determine the experiment’s success or failure.

This is where the frequency and assertiveness of people participating in the debate is a distraction. So as with any discussion, you – as a responsible participant in your team – should be wary of falling in love with a solution while ignoring the real problems. Listen in on all the ideas as you may find them useful later, but don’t be so naive as to implement ideas just because people who you respect have chosen to promote them.

If estimating, sizing or velocity are taking up a whole bunch of time, no-estimates might be one of the “at least seven” ideas you come up with to solve the problem of wasted time – but if it takes little or no time, perhaps your efforts are best spent elsewhere in your process.