AFH 020: #NoEstimates with Vasco Duarte [PODCAST]


Ryan Ripley, Vasco Duarte


Vasco Duarte (@duarte_vasco) joined Ryan Ripley (@RyanRipley) for a discussion about #NoEstimates. Vasco is the author of the #NoEstimates Book, Founder of Oikosofy, and host of the Scrum Master ToolBox Podcast.

One of the staring points of #NoEstimates is: “We as an industry are not able to estimate well.”

With that starting point, alternatives are necessary. #NoEstimates seeks to explore those alternatives.

We started with Vasco’s early days of discovering the #NoEstimates path. It started with data. I won’t steal Vasco’s thunder, but it was interesting to learn how much many of the #NoEstimates ideas are driven by actual project data from a variety of sources.

We then moved on to cover many of the questions that #NoEstimates critics and skeptics ask when hearing these ideas for the first time. How to pick one project over another, how to align with project dependencies and more are covered during our hour together.

Finally, we touched on the kind of environments where #NoEstimates is not an option:

In cases where you are not allowed to experiment, where you are not allowed to learn, where you have to know everything upfront, you have no option but to speculate about the cost of a particular project.

And then…we called it a night.

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  • Henrik Ebbeskog

    I’m going to start with things that made me twitch.

    McConnell won’t change the world, but NoEstimates will @ 19:55. Yes! Hallelujah! 😉

    “Estimate bargaining” @ 21:15, typical example. Thing is, that people misbehaving has nothing to do with the need of having information to be able to make decisions about things. Wanting to have an idea when something will be done is not unreasonable.

    NoEstimates as an “improvement wave”, comparing with Agile and Lean @ 24:20. Hmm… an example of the Galileo complex?

    “Those that don’t immediately get the idea” @ 29:37, comes off as “we who are enlightened”.

    Not safe? @ 31:00. Are critics to blame solely? Where’s the introspection here? And why this view when someone challenges an idea? Questioning ideas is what makes them evolve. Seeing questioning of ideas as “attacks” or “not safe to have” is not what makes ideas grow. Thinking about Pixar’s Braintrust mentioned in Ed Catmull’s book Creativity Inc. here.

    Iron triangle @ 33:13. Wrong interpretation in my opinion. It’s not about fixing things, it’s: “One side of the triangle cannot be changed without affecting the others”

    “I was a traditional Project Manager” @ 34:13, again “I’m now enlightened”.

    No contracts @ 35:06, “We work based on trust”. Platitude. Who doesn’t? And starting a business relationship without a contract is a really bad idea. It doesn’t scale at least. Sometimes It’s not even not legal. Contracts aren’t bad, if you do them well. On the contrary, they can actually be very good.
    Anyway, in line with the “No” in NoEstimates, and/or the “chasing waste”. See

    “Those living in the ‘Estimation World'” @ 37:21, what does this even mean? Again, comes off as “Those who aren’t enlightened yet”. And “estimation world”, what is this mindset of combining those two words, witnessing of?

    “20-30% a few orders of magnitude” @ 38:05, no that can actually almost be seen as just a minor improvement.

    “Best question critics ask?” @ 46:24, followed by “The question *I* care about” OK…

    From 6 months to 1/2 hour (24 hours) @ 48:00 Really? Really!?

    There was probably some other things as well, but to summarize:

    When I listened to this podcast I really tried to look beyond the talk about “no estimates” and seeing the ideas. And it is really some great ideas here. Not new, but it doesn’t matter, good ideas. But while looking beyond the name, what strikes me is that what really is talked about is doing estimation better, or perhaps even more broadly, improving the way we look at software in general. Quite a lofty goal to put under the name “no estimates”. And this is also mentioned in the podcast as “tip of the iceberg”. I call this “The God Hashtag” 😉

    This makes me wonder: why define or view “estimates” in such a way just so we can say “No” to it? Why not broaden our view to see that all this is actually “estimates” as well? What’s the agenda here? Going with a “no” name when it’s really just about doing it differently or perhaps better seems odd to me. Also, having a focus on “No” is like having too much focus on cost. Let me explain; If we focus on cost, then focus on cost is what we’ll get. In the same sense, focusing on “no [something]”, then focus “no” we’ll get, and probably lose focus on what actually matters. It comes off, in my opinion, as a “everything is wrong” mindset. Not the way forward, in my opinion.

    And, as can be seen above, I can’t look beyond the “salesman talk” here. Almost some kind of hubris. This makes the alarm bell ring. It’s like the BS detector goes off 😉

    Anyway, listening to this podcast with the ears of “estimate better” (or similar) instead, and it was great. Thanks!

    • Thanks for listening and for commenting Henrik. I appreciate the feedback on the episode.
      I do not personally feel that the #NoEstimates discussion on twitter is safe. And I don’t think it’s a critics vs advocates. Individuals have caused the issues, not teams of people. My other thoughts are in the episode.

      When Vasco and I talked about people who do not “immediately get the idea” it’s not an attempt to disparage them. We are acknowledging that agile is hard and that #NoEstimates is an advanced agile topic that is even harder. If anything we were attempting to show empathy for people who have not or who dare not to dream about working in a different way.

      And the order of magnitude comment that I made was clearly a joke.

      The 6 months to 30 minutes comment was about a workshop whose goal is to show people how they can get to working software quickly. Clearly such an app would not be “production ready” but the exercise does illustrate that *perhaps* we can change our systems of work to get to working software sooner.

      Thanks again for your comments, I really do appreciate the fact that you actually listened and gave your thoughts. Your feedback will be used to make future episodes better.


      • Henrik Ebbeskog

        It wasn’t *clearly* a joke. I can’t hear the slightest indication that anyone laughed or even reacted in a way such that it was clear in any way. Vasco didn’t seem to pick it up as a joke either. So, no, I didn’t see it as a joke, and it wasn’t clear.
        So, feedback for future episodes; make jokes clear 🙂