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Jump-starting story estimation

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  • William Pietri
    I discovered a trick recently I thought I d pass along. Whenever I get a team up and going with stories, the initial estimation is always a struggle. Teams are
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2006
      I discovered a trick recently I thought I'd pass along.

      Whenever I get a team up and going with stories, the initial estimation
      is always a struggle. Teams are used to thinking carefully about
      estimates, and they are especially used to getting in hot water when the
      estimates are wrong. With a point-based system, they need not fear, but
      old habits die hard.

      This particular team's first estimation session was painfully long, and
      we were looking at eight or so long meetings to get through the cards at
      that rate. For the next meeting, we tried something different. First we
      did rough estimates in just a couple of minutes per story. Then we went
      through and did the previous careful estimation and compared results.

      It turned out that the rough estimates were generally wrong by 20% or
      so, but they weren't biased in any particular direction. For quite a
      number of stories, the amount of person-hours taken to do the careful
      estimate was larger than the estimation error.

      After that, plus some more testifying from the customer that she was
      really expecting rough estimates, not promises, the team went happily
      ahead and estimated the whole stack of stories roughly.


      William
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