We do Scrum-but: We don’t estimate because it takes too long or management beats us up.


Estimation isn’t taking place for any number of reasons:

  • it takes to long to estimate
  • management uses the estimates as an excuse to beat us up
  • our estimates are really bad

Objectives of the practice

Estimation serves several purposes, including:

  • allowing for planning for the team
  • computing the velocity of the team so other teams can see when when anything they are dependent will be ready
  • helping the team uncover any misunderstandings about what is being estimated

How to do the practice better

While Planning Poker is very popular, our experience is that it often takes a lot longer to do estimation than other methods that provide just as good results.  While Planning Poker is often a good place to start, if you want to shorten the time it takes for estimation, try out Steve Bockman’s Team Estimation. Many teams report similar results in  1/10th to 1/4th the time it takes to do Planning Poker.  It also takes only about 10 minutes to learn.  An alternative to this approach, and really good for larger groups is James Grenning’s Planning Poker Party (from which Planning Poker gets its name).   It’s based on the same principles of Team Estimation but is done differently.

Getting Management not to use estimates as a weapon

When this happens it’s an indication of bad management. It is difficult to have a socratic conversation with your boss, but that’s probably what it’s going to take. See What to Say When Someone Just Doesn’t Get It for help.

How to test if an alternative is better

If it takes less time to do estimation than before and the estimates are about as good (or bad) then you’ve saved time.  Whether management is attacking you more or less is likely to be a subjective measure.