Personally, I’ve always felt that the guidelines for Sprint planning sessions are a tad on the excessive side:
“Each sprint begins with a sprint planning meeting. For a one month or four-week sprint this meeting should last eight hours. For a two-week sprint, plan for about four hours.”
Most of our projects run on a two-week sprint cycle, so in theory we should be enjoying many four hour sprint planning sessions. Four hours of planning! How could anyone stay awake for that long? How could we justify that from a budget perspective?
Even with detailed discussion of the story needs, using poker for story pointing and detailed planning per item, two hours would push the boundaries of a useful planning session - the team will have had enough and the quality of the discussion will degrade.
Likewise, not estimating at all is very risky and most likely to run the project into difficulty sooner or later. So you definitely need an estimation technique, but finding something which suits your project can take a little effort.
Recently, we’ve chosen to use t-shirt sizing and points for estimation on a project, which is a super easy lightweight technique for getting teams to estimate their work.
When to use it:
How it works
In the case of this project, we converted the t-shirt sizes to points i.e. XS - 0.5 point, S - 1 point, M - 3 points, L - 5 points, XL - 8 points). As PM, I could then use the points to review progress using relative estimation, and estimate with greater confidence (and happiness) where we would get to by the end of the project.
It’s by no means foolproof. It’s a very simple technique, and that means the level of accuracy can be off at times. But it’s way better than trying to estimate using days.
How do you and your teams estimate your work at the start of a project? Join the conversation on twitter @clearleft.