Should I use hours to estimate my tasks in Scrum?

My new recommended “starter” “complementary practice” for new Scrum teams is to simply create tasks and use the “number of tasks remaining” for a burndown.  (I also usually recommend that they try to make it such that the vast majority of their tasks are roughly 1 day or less) I encourage them more to focus on PRI (potentially releasable increments), Sprint Goals, and achieving a moderately consistent level of skill at meeting their Sprint forecasts (used to be called “Sprint commitment,” it’s been re-named in the Scrum Guide).  I also caution heavily against trying to achieve perfect forecast accuracy as that’s a fool’s errand in complex domains.

Using hours for tasks can lead down some really bad roads, most notably:  Former PM’s turned SM’s and other organizational members who try to apply PMI tactics (100% utilization, tracking actuals, etc) tactics to complex software development.  By preferring “sticking to the plan” over “responding to change”, they are completely violating Agile and Scrum.

This same bad road can also lead companies into think that “schedule/scope/cost” is an optimum model for software development.  As far as I’m concerned, schedule/scope/cost is a dead, failed model for software.

Now, using hours for tasks doesn’t have to lead down those bad roads — but in my experiences, they usually do.  Let’s not forget, Scrum used to require hours for task estimation, many years ago, but the Scrum experiences of the wider community over 20 years has spoken on the topic — hours is not always optimum.  I would go farther than that and say, at the Sprint task level, it’s usually NOT optimum.

Given the above, I’ll leave it as an exercise to others to describe where using task hours might not lead down those bad roads.

_____
Charles Bradley
Professional Scrum Trainer
Scrum Coach-in-Chief

http://ScrumCrazy.com

New Courses from ScrumCrazy.com:

  • Scrum For Executives
  • Agile Requirements: Product Owner and Team Collaboration Techniques
  • Scrum Product Owner: Techniques for Success
  • Evidence Based Management for Software Organizations(TM)
    • Class for Software Development Managers and Executives

If you’re interested in any of our classes, training, or coaching services, feel free to contact us.

Breaking News!! Jeff Sutherland’s Scrum Inc introduces “Scrum At Scale” — see it at Agile 2014 session

I was lucky enough to get a preview of the “Scrum At Scale” approach from Scrum Inc a few days ago. In short, it’s a model for conversations around how to think about scaling Scrum in the enterprise. The model is modular, and it is very clear that this approach is more lightweight and flexible than other Agile scaling approaches that get a lot of attention. Alex Brown of Scrum Inc, the Product Owner for the model, as well as Jeff Sutherland, are very adamant that this this not some cookie cutter recipe or methodology to scale Scrum. It’s different than other approaches, in that it’s a model for conversations around inspecting and adapting toward success with Scrum at Scale.

I’m told that the slides for the presentation at the link above will be posted there within the next couple of days, and possibly sooner. The slides will add a lot of detail that the main graphic doesn’t give. I will also add that there is some nuance and detail not included in the slides either. As such, I recommend try to attend one of their live or recorded video presentations to get some richer nuance…. or….

They are also presenting on this topic at Agile 2014 next week. If you’re going to be at Agile 2014, I highly recommend you put their session on your “must see” list.

The model gives a “big picture” view of Scrum in the enterprise, but it also dovetails nicely with the many years of work that Jeff Sutherland and others have put into their Scrum Patterns efforts. As you may know, I’m also a fan of this Scrum patterns concept, and you can see an example of that work on my website — Daily Scrum Patterns.

It’s worth mentioning that I have no business relationship whatsoever with Scrum Inc, so I’m not in any way incentivized to advocate for their approach.  I’m only endorsing it because I believe in the approach and in it’s future.

I suspect that this work will be a game changer in the Scrum scaling space, which doesn’t surprise me, really. It *is,* after all, coming from a company run by the co-creator of Scrum! Nice work Alex Brown, Jeff Sutherland, and Scrum Inc!

Is SAFe(tm) Bad? Is it unsafe? Is it Agile? Are there alternatives?

For much better alternatives to SAFe(tm), see this page.

All my personal/professional opinion.

I’m not a big fan of SAFe(tm). I haven’t yet had time to sit down and detail all of the problems I have with it, but I’ll hit a couple.

1. It’s not Agile at all. It’s a sales strategy.

My biggest problem with it is that it condones old, out of date, and dysfunctional practices that don’t enhance Agility. It is essentially a hybrid approach of Waterfall and Agile, along with a lot of baggage from RUP. This probably shouldn’t surprise anyone since the creator, Dean Leffingwell, was a big salesman/evangelist for RUP. The biggest baggage from RUP is the complexity of a zillion different roles and the fact that SAFe is a “slice and dice” methodology. It’s not a framework. I think the “slice and dice” thing is really just a slick sales strategy. It allows those selling SAFe to immediately disown any practice of SAFe that a potential client complains isn’t Agile or won’t work. It also means that any tiny subset of SAFe is still considered to be SAFe. As such, I just consider this a sales strategy to sell more billable hours. This strategy was also used in RUP, and yet… over the years… which has prospered more? RUP or Scrum? Scrum is a framework, so there is no slice and dicing of the framework itself.

2. It misleads people into thinking that it uses Scrum at the team level.

It claims to use Scrum at the team level, but then completely sells out Scrum in so many ways. It sells out the Product Owner role by giving control to all manner of people over the Product Backlog contents, something Scrum expressly forbids. It sells out the Scrum Master role by suggesting it’s a 25% time commitment. Then, it completely sells out the Development Team by creating Ivory Tower architects.

3. To date, no Agile Manifesto author has endorsed it. That should tell you something right there.

This one is self explanatory. :-)

The reasons I don’t like it are covered in way more detail in these reviews of SAFe by other people who are sharp enough to tell the differences between SAFe and other approaches, as well as the history behind similar practices and approaches

For much better alternatives to SAFe(tm), see this page.

Scrum of Scrums is an event *of* the Development Team, *by* the Development Teams, and *for* the Development Teams!

Hello ScrumCrazy readers,

I’m proud to announce that my article on the “Scrum of Scrums” practice got posted on Scrum.org.

In the article I give some advice on excellence in execution of the Scrum of Scrums practice, and how the Scrum of Scrums has been misinterpreted my many to be a status meeting. It’s an event of the Development Teams, by the Development Teams, and for the Development Teams!

Please give it a look and give me feedback here or there. Feedback welcome!

I Recommend the New Book _Scrum Shortcuts…_ by Ilan Goldstein

I came upon Ilan’s new book, Scrum Shortcuts Without Cutting Corners,  by seeing his great blog posts first, then I actually offered to review his book.  What he didn’t know, is that on the rare occasion I take the time to review a book (unpaid), I usually look at the first couple of chapters they give me to review before deciding whether I’ll actually follow up and review more of it or not.  Ilan’s book was great, so I offered to do some more reviewing for him before he published it.

There are some recent books out on the Scrum Master role, and I don’t care for a lot of them.  Ilan’s book is one I wholeheartedly endorse.  It’s short, it’s easily digestable, and packed with practical advice.  Like he says in the book, it’s not a prescription — it’s simply a list of possible strategies to play Scrum with.

Ilan’s book is in the Mike Cohn series, and even though I’m certified as a trainer through a different organization (and don’t always agree with anything 100% these days), I really like the Mike Cohn series a lot.  It’s a quality series of books, among a larger field of books that I mostly don’t recommend.

I’m gladly adding Ilan’s book to my list of favorite Scrum and Agile resources.  I recommend you pick up a copy and do the same!

(I receive no financial benefit for writing this review)

May the Sprint be with you… and… Scrum On!

Great Article from Scrum Co-Creator Ken Schwaber on “Agile Value”

Ken Schwaber’s written a great article on Agile Value .  He talks about how value can be defined in Agile, and the article also covers the difference between traditional project management metrics and Agile project measurements.

On a related note, see Common Project Management Metrics Doom IT Departments to Failure

Urgent: Vote for Lance Dacy for Scrum Alliance Board of Directors!

My dear readers of the ScrumCrazy.com blog,

First of all, long time, no talk!

The deadline to vote is THIS Wed Dec 11.  Please pass this message along if you are willing.  Vote for Lance!

I have a special request for you.  I would like to wholeheartedly endorse Lance Dacy as a candidate for the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors.  I have had the good fortune of interacting numerous times in the past with Lance, and I believe he truly embodies the servant leadership that we in the Scrum community all aspire to.  You should know that I have very high standards anyway, but I have an even a much higher standard for endorsing people in business in a public forum.  So, if you know me well, you know what my endorsement means.  I have no business or financial incentive of any kind to endorse Lance other than I had the good fortune to meet him and interact with him, and learn what he is all about.  I’ve never done business with him or his company  I haven’t talked to him in quite some time, but I know he’s a good egg, so I’m throwing my weight behind him!

So, if you haven’t yet cast your Scrum Alliance board vote, please vote for Lance Dacy!

P.S.  For those wondering how to vote — if your SA membership is current, then you should have received an email about the election at the email address you provided for your SA profile account.  It’s literally two clicks, starting from your email.

The deadline to vote is THIS Wed Dec 11.  Please pass this message along if you are willing.  Vote for Lance!

Scrum On!

——-
Charles Bradley
Professional Scrum Trainer
Scrum Coach-in-Chief
ScrumCrazy.com
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 286 other followers

%d bloggers like this: