Hi, Faith. Great questions.
Do you have any data handy? For example, I'd love to see the velocities
in each of the iterations for the last release. And maybe the
individual story estimates from a typical iteration and one you think
was off, like that bit right before release?
Thanks for your thoughtfulness.
I think the bad estimates should be pretty easy to fix. There I'd use
one of the Delphi method variants:
The one I normally use is Planning Poker:
In particular, I'd require that the team come to consensus on an
estimate. If after a few rounds they can't, then have them explicitly
identify the core of the disagreement, and give them explicit research
time to resolve the difference. If everybody has to agree, they'll
challenge one another's estimates, and I'm sure you won't be the only
one to catch onto this pattern.
We do use planning poker, although the team does not like Fibonacci count and have
settled on a system of .5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
On a side note: I continuously struggle to understand this in terms of real time, it's total
felt experience for me. Particularly towards the end of the release when there are scraps
of work to be done I feel as if our units of measurement are unhelpful. My lead tech will
talk about the need to give each individual story a measurement even if it doesn't seem
worthy of say .5 because the sponsor needs to know there is a "cost".
This perspective of everything having a cost, feels more like stick than carrot (value).
Back to issue at hand: So the dev team collectively throws estimates in our planning
sessions, but as a rule of thumb we take the highest estimate. I do see devs challenge
each other occasionally but not often. In cases of one specific tech lead, if this person
doesn't like a story he will continue to throw high numbers. I have noticed a pattern that
kills further discussion, the dev will say "well it still think there is complexity we aren't
seeing and therefore I am not comfortable with anything lower than X pts".
I would like to change this rule of thumb that we go with the highest estimate. Do others
have this policy?
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