9 Tips for Group Based Estimating

Blog post
By Pam Ashby | 20 June 2017

Estimating is not always a popular subject...

When Mark Buchan ran a workshop session on estimating at the May Member Training Day, he raised eyebrows when he highlighted the movement for ‘No Estimating’. It turned out that he wasn’t recommending that estimating should be ignored, but it prompted an exploration of its value. Those in the room firmly concluded that there was a case for estimating, even though it wasn’t often on their ‘exciting task’ list.

Estimating gives organisations vital predictability, and confidence that goals can be reached ‘before the money runs out’. It is about organisations taking responsibility for how they spend their money, and contributes a level of certainty in a world where the future is largely unpredictable. Risk caused by uncertainty is one of the things that tends to cause people stress – so any process that contributes to certainty is a good thing both for the organisation and each individual it employs.

Inaccurate estimating has been frequently blamed for project failure. There are many pitfalls, but group based estimating adds to reliability by introducing a mix of perspectives and skills. For instance, balancing the practical perspective of the practitioners doing the work with the expert knowledge of the business context. Or, avoiding inaccuracy caused by individual bias.

Attention still needs to be paid to group dynamics – the Abilene Paradox may influence results, causing people agree with something that conflicts with their better judgement for fear of being the one that ‘rocks the boat’. Or, some people may not contribute if they feel undervalued or threatened. Excellent facilitation will be key to success.

Here are 9 Tips for Success in Group Based Estimating:

  1. Timebox discussions – so the group stays focused on the critical issues
  2. Keep communication brief and directed to outcomes
  3. Facilitate – make sure there are no quiet voices
  4. Avoid wasting time on trivialities
  5. Use points or some comparative method
  6. Make things real by using metaphor and analogy
  7. Create a safe environment based on trust – managers outside?
  8. Use time within sprints/timeboxes
  9. Check the group includes different perspectives – ‘finders, minders, and grinders’

Are you a member and missed this workshop?

Members can access Mark’s full presentation and watch the video here


To find out how you can benefit from member training workshops with experts such as Mark Buchan, please visit our membership pages






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