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Suck At Estimation? Use The 2 Day Crutch Method.

Filed Under Estimation, Software Process

crutch

Perhaps the biggest problem area for the software industry is the inability to accurately estimate work. However, this is only because people allow themselves to give out wild ass guesses on very coarse grained and undefined pieces of work.

For example, with fairly high confidence we can tell the difference between a 1 hour task and a 2 hour task, but it is improbable that someone can tell you the difference between a 34 hour task and a 35 hour task. Here in lies the answer, better estimation comes from estimating smaller bits of work.

Regardless if you call them features or user stories, your chunks of work need to be broken down into eatable bite-sized pieces (smaller yields more accuracy). So what is small enough? The answer is the 2 Day Crutch Method.

There is only one rule of the 2 Day Crutch Method – break down features/stories whose estimations are bigger than 2 days.

This single rule causes you to practice many good habits:

  • Forces further exploration/discussion of unknown or large features
  • Insists task break downs of lengthy known features
  • Teaches the wisdom of knowing when something is really unknown

Now I am sure that people are asking why it is called the “crutch” method. Simply put, this practice is meant to only be a crutch to aid you in your journey to being a better estimator. Depending on your team, you may need to run this process for a year or perhaps a mere month or two. I am not going to be as dogmatic as to suggest that all features can be broken down into parts that will take less than 2 days to accomplish; however, I can say that most features do fit into the 2 day method.

Whether to get some brush up practice or to fix some real estimation problems, every team should occasionally challenge themselves with the 2 day estimation method. I promise you will see benefits in 2 days or less or your money back guaranteed!

Update: If you are doing User Stories, this method really helps for you to frame in the differences between Themes and User Stories. Most people understand Epics fairly easily, but get a little hung up on the granularity differences between Themes and Stories. In short, this method might be able to flush out those differences; fits in 2 days = Story, bigger than 2 days = Theme.

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Comments

6 Responses to “Suck At Estimation? Use The 2 Day Crutch Method.”

  1. Kris Brixon on March 9th, 2009 7:31 am

    Totally agree. When I ask for estimates from my developers, each task must be between 2 hours and 2 days. Any tasks under 2 hours need to be grouped together and any tasks over 2 days need to be split apart.

  2. Paul Bourdeaux on March 9th, 2009 10:20 am

    Good blog. We find ourselves doing exactly this when we use planning poker. If a task is estimated at 20+ ideal man hours, then it needs to be broken up into smaller tasks.

    The highest estimation I like to see is 13, meaning we think this task will take more than 8 hours but less than 20…

  3. Arjan`s World » LINKBLOG for March 9, 2009 on March 9th, 2009 10:50 am

    […] Suck At Estimation? Use The 2 Day Crutch Method – Max Pool ‘ Here in lies the answer, better estimation comes from estimating smaller bits of work ‘ […]

  4. links for 2009-03-09 | Visualrinse | Design and Development by Chad Udell on March 9th, 2009 5:03 pm

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  5. Julio on March 9th, 2009 8:01 pm

    Very good! We started with this (more than 2 days is “too big to tell”) and it’s been working great. A year or so ago we introduced half size index cards, and amazingly enough (wasn’t the intent) only very rarely do we have stories bigger than one day.

    I like to think it was because of the size of the cards, and the fact that you can’t write that much in them, but maybe it’s just because we got better.

  6. links for 2009-03-09 | Iona.LABS on March 10th, 2009 7:19 pm

    […] Suck At Estimation? Use The 2 Day Crutch Method. Perhaps the biggest problem area for the software industry is the inability to accurately estimate work. However, this is only because people allow themselves to give out wild ass guesses on very coarse grained and undefined pieces of work. […]

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