326 Journal 5

(Realistic) Planning

Read: Sutherland Chapter 6

This week, I want to nudge you and your teams to start planning and reporting quantitatively.  That is, start practicing an essential skill of assigning numeric values to user stories, tasks, or features as you plan your work for the next few weeks.  Also, start reporting your progress in terms of numbers.

Why??

Because management in almost any organization will want numbers, at least in the planning and reporting summaries.  And they will want (and need) numbers when making comparisons and answering questions about the results of changes in personnel, management techniques, organization, or tools being used to produce the software.  It is simply a fact of life when working in a production environment that management will want numbers rather than (or in addition to)  a list of what features you completed.

And to some degree this makes sense.  From outside the team, the list does not tell me how much more challenging feature A is vs. feature B.  Or if you got many more tasks done this week thank last week … was it because they were a group of easy tasks??  Or was it because the team is becoming more efficient and skillful??

So start practicing.  Use one or more of the techniques described in Sutherland to estimate the relative difficulty of the tasks you are doing each sprint before you start working on them and give each of them a numeric ranking.  Then, in your week-end review, look back on your estimates to see how accurate you were.  If there was a significant difference, can you tease out why??  You will get better with practice!!  Also take comfort in the fact that sometimes you will over-estimate and sometimes you will under-estimate, and the two errors generally balance out over time.

Assignment

As always,  make this journal fit your style, but consider planning and how to 1) be realistic and 2) improve your ability to estimate (and lead your team to do estimation) production effort in software design and development.

If it helps, think about these questions:

  • What method(s) do you think your team would be willing to adopt?
  • How do you improve task difficulty estimation?
  • What is your team’s current velocity?  If you don’t know it …. can you figure out how to start measuring and reporting progress numerically?
  • Sutherland writes that there are no tasks, only stories … what does he mean?  Do you agree?
  • What causes unrealistic plans?  How do you plan to guide your team toward realistic plans and goal setting?