Top three reasons why #NoEstimates is not a professional Software Development approach #Agile

In a recent post, I stated that some aspects of the #NoEstimates approach is not yet a professional Software Development approach. I believe it could become a professional Software Development approach, but it isn’t one yet. Some people raised an eyebrow to this statement and rightfully so. When you drop a bombshell like that you certainly should provide rationale and criteria as to how you ended up with that opinion.

Remember that this is also just my opinion, so do with it what you will. 🙂


Here we go!

1. The proposal and hypothesis should be clear, concise, and consistent

God help me, I really do have problem with knowing what #NoEstimates is proposing. Sometimes it is not doing any estimates – but do then again do them if you need to. Sometimes it is just working on a prioritized backlog and delivering in an incremental way delivering the highest priority items first. I find this ambiguity hurts the #NoEstimates cause more than it helps. If you believe in something, propose exactly what it is and stick to it. A lot of times we really don’t know what you are proposing that we should do. If you firmly  believe no one should do estimates, then say that and stick to it.

2. Don’t just criticize alternative theories

All the great ideas over time were able to stand up without criticizing alternative theories. Einstein never got on a soapbox and criticized Newtonian Physics. He simply proposed a new theory and illustrated why it described reality in a better way. The #NoEstimates proponents are actually hurting the acceptance by calling other methods ‘insane’ and ‘crazy’. It is almost the equivalent of swearing. Swearing is the easy way out of rationally describing your position to convince others of how it is a superior approach. To be clear, I don’t believe that a big-bang waterfall approach is better than Agile. But calling it ‘insane’ is intellectually lazy. I should be able to easily prove that to you. (and I can) Sometimes the discussions seem to resemble political attack ads more than anything else.

3. The facts should be available for peer review

Many times in discussions with #NoEstimates proponents I have seen opponents ask for the established companies that are using the extreme #NoEstimates processes of not estimating at all. Each time I usually get the response that they are soon going to interview them soon and would publish the results. I still haven’t seen any numbers published from companies that don’t estimate at all. So it is very difficult to validate the claims and whether the process would work in other situations.


In addition to these three characteristics, the inherent value of an approach is how wide the applicability is in the real world. If an approach is only viable in a controlled lab environment, then the approach is of not much use in the wild. For my money, an approach that is only applicable in a product company addressing only a very small share of the Software Development industry.

It probably is controversial, but the #NoEstimates movement has not yet demonstrated the widespread applicability in the Software Development Industry.


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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