Establishing estimates

How to establish task estimates in a newly formed team Posted by Lena Barinova on October 14, 2014 Workshops

This is a short introduction to one of many techniques how to establish estimates (in my teams we make estimation of size, not the duration of the task) - White elephant.

This technique is taken from White elephant gift exchange party game. You can use “White elephant” within your team when you need to estimate upcoming work.

Recently I had an initial estimation session with one team (they are in the beginning of Agile adoption). This was a team of  7 members and they had 39 items (of current and upcoming work) to estimate. We started with answering these two questions:

  1. What is the purpose of estimation?
  2. What do we want to estimate: size, duration, complexity, velocity, etc. For us it is size we estimate.

Then we decided what measures did we want to use: T-shirt sizing (XS, S, M, L, XL).

We used simple rules:

  • Talks one at a time
  • Everyone in round-robin manner:
    • Takes a card from pile (or already placed)
    • Reads the task loudly
    • Put into one column (XS, S, M, L, XL) if hard to decide – put into M
    • Explain why?
  • If task was moved 3 times – it cannot be moved again, meaning that we need to discuss more about it afterwards.
  • Repeat while everyone agrees

We’ve managed to finish estimating in less than half an hour. task board

During this session we achieved:

  1. Common understanding about all the tasks we have in scope
  2. Common feeling how to estimate relatively
  3. Visualization of how much loaded with work are our team members
  4. Information for further future when we will be figuring out what is our velocity
  5. The list of unclear/need to discuss tasks

Things  to keep in mind while estimating:

  1. Compare stories to get estimates
  2. Use more than one example
  3. Group similar sized user stories