How should we punctuate a certain task/story?
It is a recurrent discussion in our company and clients. From time to time I found myself arguing about this subject. This made me write down an example I’m used to put in those discussions.
Suppose you work in a team which is responsible for making article summaries for a newspaper. Then, someone in the team heard about a technique which uses points for sizing the amount of work. The team, though, decided to implement this technique and, after some discussions, everybody agreed to make sizing meetings (the event in which each person on the team give points to articles) as simple as possible. For that, they have chosen that each English full written article page would receive 1 (one) point.
In my opinion, it was a very good start for this team. Don't you think?
Then, the first article arrived. It had 10 written pages and then the team gave it 10 points. Then, the second article came with 20 pages, but 6 of them have lots of images. So, the team discussed a little bit and they agreed to give it 17 points.
Up until now, pretty simple. No?!?
But, some Portuguese articles became to arrive. The first one was a paper with 15 full written pages. How many points do you think the team would give to this article?
Think a few moments about it. I’ll be waiting right here. ;-)
Probably you would be thinking: “as a member of this team, I would give it more than 15 points because I’m not fluent in Portuguese and, therefore, it will take me more time to finish my work”.
If you have these thoughts I would say you are not sizing. You are, actually, trying to estimate.
But... What is the difference?
- The amount of work of a specific task
- Although sizing is a kind of estimation, the word estimation usually remember the amount of time, money and resources you will spend to perform a specific task
So... If more than 15 points are not appropriated, what would be a good number?
15, of course.
When you are sizing you must not consider complexity, time, money, resources and etc. Moreover, you should not take into account that you must learn something in order to perform a defined task (which is the case in this fake example).
But, again... Why?
- Time and complexity are very subjective measures
- For example, suppose you have a member of your team which is fluent in Portuguese and another which has never read a word in such a language. If they take into account time and/or complexity, they will think differently while punctuating. In other words, they may never reach a consensus about the amount of work.
- The amount of time, complexity and money depends on who will be performing the task
- In the most of cases, during the sizing meeting, we do not know exactly who will be responsible to perform a defined task. So, we must think in a generic way. For that, the most effective strategy is to relative tasks/stories to each other (i.e. sizing).
- Points help focus on team performance, not on individuals
- The idea behind points is to help give focus on the overall team result/capacity, and not on a specific team member performance.
- The team velocity is not possible to be measured correctly if time/complexity/etc are considered
- Suppose a year ago your team has given 20 points to a 10 pages article written in Portuguese. Considering this team got some fluency in that language, nowadays an article with the same number of pages is used to receive 15 points. At first glance it seems ok to give fewer points to it because the work is finished faster. However, if you do that, the velocity (commonly used in agile methodologies) will decrease (i.e. if a year ago you were able to deliver 200 points per month, now you can make only 150 - 180). If the learning curve was not taking into account the team velocity would be increased showing they are able to do more stuff in the same amount of time.
Making it short:
Points are all about sizing. If a year ago you gave to a specific task 10 points; right now, whenever you have to repeat that task, you must give it exactly the same punctuation. Even knowing you became an expert in this subject and that you will finish it faster. Finishing it faster means you have improved your velocity and, therefore, you are getting better and better in what you do.
So, whenever you are using points, avoid the word estimation. This word gives to people an incorrect impression while punctuating.
Please, leave your comments about this subject. I love to hear other people opinions.
Thanks for reading.