Book Notes #14: Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn

Agile Estimating and Planning is the definitive, practical guide to estimating and planning agile projects with the philosophy of agile that shows you exactly how to get the job done.

Title: Agile Estimating and Planning
Author: Mike Cohn
Year: 2005
Pages: 368

Agile Estimating and Planning is the definitive, practical guide to estimating and planning agile projects. 

In this book, Agile Alliance cofounder Mike Cohn discusses the philosophy of agile estimating and planning and shows you exactly how to get the job done, with real-world examples and case studies.

As a result, I gave this book a rating of 8.0/10.

For me, a book with a note 10 is one I consider reading again every year. Among the books I rank with 10, for example, is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Overview of Agile Estimating and Planning

Concepts are clearly illustrated and readers are guided, step by step, toward how to answer the following questions: What will we build? How big will it be? When must it be done? How much can I really complete by then? You will first learn what makes a good plan and then what makes it agile.

Mike Cohn tries to answer questions like why conventional prescriptive planning fails and why agile planning works? 

How to estimate feature size using story points and ideal days–and when to use each? How and when to re-estimate? 

How do prioritize features using both financial and nonfinancial approaches? 

How do split large features into smaller, more manageable ones? 

How to plan iterations and predict your team’s initial rate of progress? 

How do schedule projects that have unusually high uncertainty or schedule-related risk? 

How to estimate projects that will be worked on by multiple teams?

Agile Estimating and Planning supports any agile or iterative process, including Scrum, XP, Feature-Driven Development, Crystal, Adaptive Software Development, DSDM, Unified Process, and many more. 

To improve estimation according to the book, Agile Estimating, and Planning, teams should focus on understanding the basics of Agile project management, such as the principles of Agile planning, the importance of estimating, and the techniques used to create reliable estimates.

Additionally, teams should utilize various tools and techniques for tracking progress, such as burn-down charts, velocity charts, and cumulative flow diagrams. 

Lastly, effective risk management should be practised to identify and mitigate potential issues. 

By applying the best practices outlined in Agile Estimating and Planning, teams can quickly improve their ability to plan, estimate, and manage any project.

An estimate is not the same as a commitment. The aim of an estimate is to be as useful and accurate as possible. This means that padding or being optimistic about estimates is counterproductive.

In Agile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn provides a comprehensive and detailed set of tools and techniques to help any project team achieve success.

By understanding the basics of Agile project management and applying the best practices outlined in the book, teams can quickly improve their ability to plan, estimate, and manage any project.

A key concern in agile estimation is to separate the estimation of size and the measuring of velocity. 

In separating these concerns, you can achieve an unbiased view of the size of a project and afterward assess the ability to achieve commitments or a schedule.

My Book Highlights & Quotes

“… The best way of dealing with uncertainty is to iterate. To reduce uncertainty about what the product should be, work in short iterations, and show (or, ideally, give) working software to users every few weeks…”

“… A good plan is one that stakeholders find sufficiently reliable that they can use as the basis for making decisions…”

“… A key tenet of agile estimating and planning is that we estimate size but derive duration…”

“… Agile teams value individuals and interactions over processes and tools because they know that a well-functioning team of great individuals with mediocre tools will always outperform a dysfunctional team of mediocre individuals with great tools and processes…”

“… We frequently fail to acknowledge and plan for this new knowledge. Failing to plan to acquire new knowledge leads to plans built on the assumption that we know everything necessary to create an accurate plan…”

“… The beauty of this is that estimating in story points completely separates the estimation of effort from the estimation of duration…”

“… For the product owner to have the most flexibility in prioritizing, features must be written so as to minimize the technical dependencies among them…”

“… Don’t split a large story into tasks. Instead, try to find a way to fire a tracer bullet through the story…”

“… Avoid making things worse by adding related changes to an appropriately sized feature unless the related changes are of equivalent priority…”

“… If you tie iterations to the ends of months, one out of every three iterations will coincide with the end of a fiscal quarter…”

“… Because the estimate for each feature is made relative to the estimates for other features, it does not matter if our estimates are correct, a little incorrect, or a lot incorrect. What matters is that they are consistent…”

Agile Estimating and Planning is an essential guide for any project team looking to improve their process for estimation and planning. 

With detailed instructions and plenty of examples, Mike Cohn provides a comprehensive set of tools and techniques that can be quickly implemented to make any project successful. 

By understanding the basics of Agile Estimating and Planning book, and applying the best practices outlined in the book, teams can quickly improve their processes and reach their goals.

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