Estimate or not? Using kanban is focusing on delivering completely done items and having as few items as possible in progress at one given moment. So, should you estimate?
When you discuss estimation, independent if you’re doing scrum or kanban, you have objectives (scrum term product backlog items). And to accomplish these, you have tasks leading up to the objectives. When using scrum, a relative value should be used for estimating the objectives (so called story points) while an absolute value is used for tasks. These are separate estimations which are also done during different occasions. You estimate product backlog items (or user stories) during release/product planning and you estimate tasks during sprint planning meetings.
Before you answer the question “estimate or not” you need to understand why you estimate and if that applies if you are using kanban instead of scrum.
The main reason for estimating user stories/product backlog items in scrum is to be able to plan your releases and to be able to prioritize. When you know the relative size of a story, you can more easily set a priority and if you know your velocity (the avergae number of story points completed during sprints) you can plan for approximate deliveries for your features.
The main reason for estimating tasks is to be able to decide on an appropriate work load during the sprint. During the sprint planning meeting, the team estimate how big tasks are and when the work load (estimated task sizes) matches the available resources, the team commits to the sprint backlog.
So, how about kanban?
Do we still need to plan releases and prioritize? Well, yes you do. These needs remain, so I do think you should keep estimating your product backlog. You cannot use the same definition of velocity, since you don’t have the sprints but you can calculate velocity as story points/week or story points/months.
Do we need to estimate tasks then? Well, since you don’t have the committing to the sprint backlog, this need is actually not there anymore. But another need has arisen. You can in many cases put in everything from very little effort to a lot of effort into a task and before you get started, you need an indication of how much work is to be spent. But you don’t have to be as specific as in the case of scrum task estimating.
I’m currently using a lot of Microsoft Project to keep my distributed stakeholders updated since the scrum dashboard just works for the current sprint and the 2008 web access isn’t very… accessible. The stakeholders can’t get the overview they need. So, I spend time on separate Microsoft Project files with the long term plans (as described in a previous post) and I keep the product backlog in TFS.
So, I was just thrilled by the images on BHarry’s blog, describing the new features for us non programmers. Finally, I can really invite my stakeholders to keep themselves updated on the level they need.
The dashboard looks awesome! Here are two examples:
For me as a product owner, I of course long for the hierarchical work items:
If I still want to show Gantt charts, I can (if all goes well) use the upgraded Project Integration, since it conserves the hierarchy. This is the main reason I don’t use the integration today.
I’m also very curious about the Sprint planning functions
So, what more can I say: JUST BRING IT ON!
It’s no wonder that most American films about wars, warriors and leaders include a powerful scene where the good leader talks to his soldiers, explaining how important the day’s war is, how hard it will be but that they will be glorious. If you’ve seen Braveheart, Gladiator 300 you know what I’m talking about.
Also, modern leaders use this tactics. One of the first that was really good at this was of course Abraham Lincoln. Winston Churchill also have these speeches that are rooted into at least Western Civilisation. We all know how much the new American president’s inauguration speech meant to people. Even here in Sweden, the content of his speech has been recited during social events I’ve attended since.
People like to be inspired before starting something new or when they are going to work hard on something.
Take that into consideration during the sprint planning meeting. If you act sceptical or look bored, why should the others care? Watch one of the films I mentioned or listen to Mr Obama and think if you can learn something about being an inspiration.
(The picture depicts the Swedish cyclist Bernt Johansson. Professional cycling is a sport which is a team sport but also an individual sport. Often a team member must step back from his personal gains to enable the best for the team. That can mean loosing an individual sprint to make the team win the whole competition. This demand an inspiring leader which the individual team members trusts and will fight for. For more on this subject, read any book by returning professional cyclist Lance Armstrong.)