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What is the possibility

One of the most often used saying in agile is that yesterday’s weather is a good predictor of tomorrow’s performance. I have lived in Louisiana where if you blink the weather will change. I currently live near Cleveland (and I like it), and in 2014 the temperature went from 39 F to -11 F in less than 24 hours. I went running on both days; they were very different. Even if I grant that yesterday can be an important indicator of performance tomorrow, a sample size of one does not capture the degree of variability that might be present in the environment. Why does anyone care about variability in performance? As suggested in Agile Metrics: An Interlude, leaders have not stopped asking what they can get, when they can get it and how much it will cost type questions. Even if they don’t ask all of those questions there will be questions about budgets. These are not evil, unagile people; they are business people that need to plan things like cash flows and making payroll. Answering when they can deliver product to the market or when a change to the HR portal will be made are important questions. Just relying on yesterday’s weather is not always sufficient and there is no Oracle of Delphi that provides a single, unambiguous answer to any of those questions. The answers are always a range. In most circumstances, each possible outcome is more or less probable than the next. Uncertainty makes it difficult to have a conversation about when, what and how much. Monte Carlo analysis provides a way to handle answering questions with significant uncertainty in the inputs that influence the outcome of the work so you can have the difficult when, what and how much type conversations. (more…)

I can’t resize the run even if is straight uphill both ways!

The question of resizing a story has many variations based on the rationale the asker is using. Rationales include stories:

  • that the work is harder,
  • take longer,
  • for which someone else is going to do the work, or
  • on which people missed the boat entirely.

If the answer given is no, the immediate next question is often “If not, then when does it make sense?”  Let’s start with the easy part of the answer. (more…)

Preparation is key to reaching your goals.

Successful and efficient planning of any sort represents the confluence of preparing the work to be planned and proper logistics. Earlier in this series on planning, we reviewed the basic logistics needed for a planning event and defined a simple checklist.  While both are important, preparing the work to be planned requires more effort.  Preparing the work for planning requires knowing the capacity of the team and grooming the work items (stories, requirements, support tickets and/or defects). (more…)

Logistics Are Part of All Meetings

Planning meetings are not terribly glamorous.  They are, however, an important first step in effectively delivering value for any sprint or increment.  I have developed a simple checklist for preparing for a planning meeting (we will explore a simple process in the near future).  Agile planning events couple the discipline of saying what will be done and then delivering on that promise with the need to embrace the dynamic nature of development and maintenance. (more…)

Left and Right


Product roadmaps are a tool used to visually present a business strategy. Roadmaps serve multiple goals. The goals of roadmap development generally are varied, including not only the ultimate roadmap itself but also the journey to develop the roadmap.  Typical goals include: (more…)


There are many levels of estimation including budgeting, high-level estimation and task planning (detailed estimation).  We can link a more classic view of estimation to  the Agile planning onion popularized by Mike Cohn.   In the Agile planning onion, strategic planning is on the outside of the onion and the planning that occurs in the daily sprint meetings at the core of the onion. Each layer closer to the core relates more to the day-to-day activity of a team. The #NoEstimates movement eschew developing story- or task-level estimates and sometimes at higher levels of estimation. As you get closer to the core of the planning onion the case for the #NoEstimates becomes more compelling. (more…)

Uncertainty is a reflection of human’s ability to think about and then worry about the future.  The future, whether tomorrow or next week generates cognitive dissonance because we are afraid that what will happen will be at odds with our mental model of the future. Budgeting, estimation, and planning are tools to rationalize away uncertainty; however, they have a complicated relationship with uncertainty.  For example, in some scenarios some uncertainty helps to prove the veracity of an expert, and in other scenarios uncertainty can generate cognitive dissonance with the assumption of certainty built into budgeting, estimation, and planning tools organizations use. (more…)