Through a tweet by Rich Sauser (@richsauser) I came across an article titled “Turning Estimates to Commitments“. The article is Agile flavoured and is proposing a method for moving away form estimates based on assertions (i.e. estimates based on past experience) to estimates based on commitments (where team members take on a personal commitment to deliver within an agreed time-frame . The key reason for moving from ‘assertions’ to ‘commitments’, according to the author, is to get away from the culture of blame associated with estimates that are found to be inaccurate. In that respect I couldn’t quite follow the logic of the solution as irrespective of if you use one method or another, if the organizational culture is that of blame it would not make much of a difference one way or another. But this is not what I want to focus on here.
The author then describes the planning process his company takes to arrive at a plan:
- Using your existing plan/schedule pull off the tasks representing roughly next 6-8 weeks of work
- With your small team, identify the outcomes (deliverables) from those schedule items.
- Have some discussion about how you’d know each deliverable was complete and done well.
- Now have each team member identify their individual deliverables for the next several weeks (we often have team members write their items on post notes and put them on a timeline).
- Scrub this plan for dependencies and take into account vacations, etc.
- Now moving from left to right on the plan, for each deliverable, ask the owner if they can commit to deliver that deliverable on that day. (Making this a deliberate step is key)
There are a number of issues with the above but I’ll focus on just a few:
- What role do the customer’s priorities play in determining what tasks will be picked up for the existing plans / schedule.
- I got curious about the process of identifying outcomes (deliverables) and the process of how each will be determined as being complete and done well. The words ‘some discussion‘ got me somewhat worried.
- The process of obtaining commitment is sweet, but what – in real terms – is this commitment based on? Is it based on….past experience and past performance?
Call me cynical but the whole approach seems somewhat immature. In the organizations I operate there is a requirement for a deeper due-diligence and evidence based decisions. I cannot justify decisions based on gut-feel and I cannot compel people to become accountable for estimates that have not been based on past experience.
Think about it!