When thinking about effective team estimates, there isn’t a whole lot of ideas that immediately come to mind in the real world. After sitting in a sauna and racking my brain for a good blog post, it came to me. If you have ever been talked into or convinced by a friend to join a team triathlon event, then this will resonate with you. I will still say this, that you won’t need have participated to get this example.
Now lets get into the meat of the post. Creating a team to compete would revolve around picking specialist. You would have someone on the team who is good at swimming, biking and running. Its easy for the individuals to come up with a estimated time of completion based on each individuals pace in each event. Now if we are to compare an Agile team to this. You would take the same approach with someone that is really good at developing the User Interface and a person who excels at writing amazing backend code. To round out the team you would also want a person who is a DevOps guru. Dare I say that this could be compared to the blueprint of building a dynasty much like the New England Patriots in the NFL.
Now lets throw a wild card into the team triathlon example. A email is sent out to participants that the the people doing each segment will be done at random and only announced at the start of the race. How would the team go about determing their estimated time of completion. You would start at the swim. Assuming each person has swam before, you would have a gage for the time it would take. Human nature leads us to negotiating to the middle, but that should be avoided. The higher estimate should win out. Now based on that understanding the team would go through each event and determine pace to help ballpark completion time. Much like Agile teams, there is this desire to estimate lower and not estimate through the lens of the person who skillset is weakest in that area. Yes, its possible the estimate is too high for some of the team, but the great part about the estimates is that it will even out over time. It will help baseline your sprint commitments (forecast) with the team to be more consistent. In the triathlon example the team may luck out and gets their events they specialize in but and unlikey outcome. Much like development, the stories won’t align perfectly with the skillsets. Most scenarios aren’t that well played out, as teams could have tons of UI work that is most valuable items in the backlog. Ideally you improve over time as specialist will help the others improve skillsets by paired programming or mob programming. Check out our lastest epsiode where we address effective ways to improve your team estimating.