Will SWAG for food

Why is it that when I am asked to estimate a project, I switch into abused-dog mode? My first instinct is to dive under the desk and whimper, which I promptly suppress in favor of other, hopefully more productive approaches.

So the last time I was asked, I stewed about it for 24 hours, talked with management-experienced friends, then finally did the sensible thing: I went to a colleague and ‘fessed up. “I’m not that good at this. And not only am I not good at this, I can’t calm myself enough to make myself good at this. May I get some help?” Why certainly. So yesterday we started to break down my project into finer detail. I drew up a spreadsheet with tasks, estimated each on a story point scale, added it up, and multiplied by 3 to account for the fact that I’m not Donald Knuth. I added a column for actual time, and hopefully, over time I will get an idea of the value of my own personal human coefficient, which I suspect will be rather high.

I reviewed Andy Lester’s Preventing Crisis talk, and asked my former colleague Buddy Burden for the story point scale in use at Rent.

Story Points The Buddy Scale The Dave Scale
dink “We’ve already spent more time talking about it than it would take to just do it.” An issue added that is quick to implement i.e., < 1 hour, equivalent to .25 story points
1 “Pfft. That’s nothing.” hours
2 “That’s not too bad …” hours to a day (or two)
3 “Not too awful, but non-trivial.” a few days

5 “This is some real work.” days to a week (or two)
8 “This is surprisingly difficult.” a few weeks
13 “This really sucks.” weeks to months
21 “There’s no way one person could do this by themselves.” weeks to months for multiple people
40 “This is a major project.” months for multiple people
100 “If they truly understood how heinous this was, they wouldn’t want to do it any more.” months for a lot of people

4 Responses to Will SWAG for food

  1. Why not estimating from the start in time units instead of points? I am sure you want to add the assigned points – but if 2 points is hours to a day – then 100 points would be below 50 days that is a little bit more then two months of work of one person instead of months for a lot of people.

    By the way I recommend “Software Estimation: Demystifying the Black Art”.

  2. perlgerl says:

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ll add that to my reading list.

    The story points were used in the initial phase of estimation to keep the focus on the order of magnitude of effort. Time spans or dates given that early tended to congeal into deadlines, even when refined over time.

  3. guy noir says:

    I’ve been recently introduced to the story points idea, and I kind of like it. For me, it’s not necessarily a linear thing, however it _is_ a metric thing – trying to put some type of quantity on the effort required.

    The effort could be measured very minutely with a lot of effort, or one could go with a gut instinct and say “This is some real work”. In theory, over time one can then dial in the metric and have a better gut -> real hours predictor.

    I think the most challenging part for me is undoing a tendency to make it less of a story than it really is.

  4. perlgerl says:

    At my current employer, France Télécom, we use yet another metaphor, the T-shirt scale.

    Size: Days
    ND 0 (non défini or undefined)
    XS 0,25, 0,5 or 1
    S 2
    M 3
    L 5
    XL 8
    XXL 13
    XXXL more than 13

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