I was introduced to the concept of making estimates in story points instead of hours back in the Software Development Practices course when I was in grad school at UH (taught by professors Venkat
and Jaspal Subhlok
I became a fan of the practice, so when I started writing todoxy to manage my todo list, it was an easy decision to not assign units to the estimates part of the app. I didn't really think about it for a while, but recently
user asked me
What units does the "Estimate" field accept?
My response was
The estimate field is purposefully unit-less. That's because the estimate field gets used in determining how much you can get done in a week, so you could think of it in hours, minutes, days, socks, difficulty, rainbows, or whatever -- just as long as in the same list you always think of it in the same terms.
A while back, Jeff Sutherland (one of the inventors of the Scrum development process) pointed out some of the reasons why story points are better than hours
. It boiled down to four reasons:
- We are bad at estimating hours, but more consistent with points
- Hours tell us nothing since the best developer on the team may be multiple times faster than the worst
- It takes less time to estimate in points than hours
- "The management metric for project delivery needs to be a unit of production [because] production is the precondition to revenue ... [and] hours are expense and should be reduced or eliminated whenever possible"
But I noticed another benefit in my personal habits. Not only does it free us of the shackles of thinking in time and the poor estimates that come as a result, it corrects itself when you make mistakes.
I recognized this when I saw myself giving higher estimates for work I didn't really want to do. Like a contractor multiplying by a pain-in-the-ass factor for her worst customer, I was consistently going to
in my estimates for a project I wasn't enjoying.
But it doesn't matter. My velocity on that list has a higher number than on my other list, so if anything I hurt myself by committing to more work on it weekly for any items that weren't inflated.
What do you think about estimating projects in leprechauns?
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