#NoEstimates? why not?

Being an internal agile coach in a company, as opposed to being an external agile coach, means that you are required not only to know the theory and common practices of Scrum, Agile and so on, but also to know how the company decided to practically practice them. Each company might have different lingo, different view on how it should be done and different pains treated differently.


That’s why, as a new agile coach in CyberArk, I need first to observe how it is done here, and try to understand also why. My boss and I discussed how we should start, and decided that instead of estimating how long would it take to observe and learn, I will simply start my first sprint by joining a couple of teams and watch closely. Once I finished my first experiment, we discussed my insights and planned the next iteration.

Recently I went to a meetup on “Planning with #NoEstimates“. I went there curious to find out if there is anything behind this hashtag, feeling quite certain that estimating is something we truly need.


In my view, estimating is to planning just like estimations are to plans, i.e. Estimating is priceless while estimations are useless. Actually, both plans and estimations are worth something, since as opposed to “we don’t know how to estimate” and “a plan is always wrong”, I did see good estimations and I did have some plans that not only we could follow, but also helped while implementing them (usually, estimating small chunks, but looking at the bigger picture, yields good predictability from my experience). But it is clear, at least for me, that the process of estimating (same goes to planning) is very meaningful. It forces us to focus, learn, find out what we don’t know and think about alternatives. The estimations themselves, if taken as a whole, can help most times in driving good decisions.

Though most of the meetup was about estimations (and not alternatives to them), the very last slide was actually very interesting. It talked about doing experiments instead of estimating. The idea is to accept your ignorance and the fact that you don’t know how long it will take to do something you have never done before, and instead of guesstimating it, plan to learn by experimenting. The more you experiment, the more you learn, the less ignorant are you and the better you can do the job (and also estimate in larger confidence).

The funny thing is that this is exactly what I was doing as a new agile coach – doing experiments instead of trying to estimate something I didn’t do before…


Author: Omer Meshar

A fan of Star Wars, Agile methodologies and TOC. Acting as an organizational Scrum Master in SQream Technologies.

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