Your dev team is not too slow - their estimates are too small

August 2, 2019

Many companies are struggling with the speed of their development - especially Product Managers or Project Managers. The typical claim is: If the team was faster, the product or project would stay within time and scope. However, that belief is wrong.

The problem here is not that the development team was too slow - the problem usually is that the development team was slower than estimated. That is an important distinction -because if we magically increase the speed of the team, their estimates would also change, so there is no reason to believe they would suddenly always be on target!

If the development team was working quicker, their estimates would be smaller, so the targets would still not be reached.

The topic of unreliable estimates is very wide-spread across teams, companies and industries. However, the software industry has no problem simply with wrong estimations - that would mean that we suffer equal parts from over- and from underestimation. No, the software industry has a clear problem with underestimation, and I double-dare you to find me at least one team who frequently and reliably overestimates their work.

This means that there is a simple way out of the dilemma above:

  • If you are in a role which makes plans out of estimates add some padding for estimation errors to your plan. Just don’t give in to the temptation to make your estimates fit your plan - you have to make your plan fit the estimates.
  • And if you have to provide the estimates, make your estimates bigger. (More pessimistic estimates have other positive side effects, which you can read about here.)

Bigger estimates are painful at first, because they are less enticing than the illusion created by smaller estimates, but they are more grounded in reality.Ultimately, they will lead to better quality of your software, since the team is not forced to cut corners and save on quality, and it will also lead to more reliable and trustworthy plans.

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