My @WoodyZuill experience #NoEstimates #Agile

Recently I was able to attend a presentation by Woody Zuill at an Agile Winnipeg meeting. Before I get into my opinions of the meeting, I’d highly recommend you attend a session by Woody if you have the chance. Woody is intelligent, respectful, and insightful in many different areas of Agile and Software Development.

Although Woody might be known for his No Estimates thought leadership, this presentation was more on the Agile mindset. (In my humble opinion) There were several points that resonated with me from this presentation. Early on in the presentation Woody coined the phrase “Baby Steps to Better” while discussing projects and how he strives to improve projects and project teams. I thought that if nothing else, what a fabulous principle to take away from this presentation and live every day on my projects.

Agile Manifesto

My favourite part of the presentation though was a group exercise that Woody led in relation to the Agile Manifesto. Woody very simply asked everyone what the word ‘Over’ meant to them in the Agile Manifesto.  For example, what does over mean to you in this statement?

Working software over comprehensive documentation”

Everyone scurried away writing down their thoughts. Answers filled the entire spectrum. Such as:

  • Items on the left are preferred to items on the right
  • Items on the left are given priority to items on the right
  • Items on the right should not impact items on the left
  • and so on…

Woody then proposed a fifth statement not in the Agile Manifesto to provoke thought:

“Healthy Lifestyle over eating fast food

Wow. Maybe it isn’t a continuum?

My opinion

My first thought was that this was a brilliant question to ask. I also thought it was even more brilliant to frame the discussion with the healthy lifestyle statement.

I thought about it and offered my thoughts to the group. As usual, my thoughts were somewhere in the middle. I offered that both are important but it all boils down to how often you do the item on the left compared to the item on the right. Can I have a healthy lifestyle if I eat fast food once a month? Sure. Can I have a healthy lifestyle if I eat fast food daily? Not a chance.

So can you be agile if you always follow a plan or demand comprehensive documentation? I would say no. There are some circumstances where the right might be required, but if you are always finding a reason to do the right side. You may want to ask yourself if you are truly being agile. There also may be valid reasons not be be agile based on the client, team, and problem at hand. You also shouldn’t feel bad if you can’t be agile. (My opinion)

But be aware if you are doing items on the left and right equally, you probably aren’t totally agile.  And that is OK.

But what I love about this exercise is the clarity it provided to me on what I should strive for on my projects.

Full Disclosure

I like estimates. I’m not a fervent No Estimates proponent. I find myself doing the minimum amount of estimates possible, but still usually doing estimates.

But I do absolutely respect people who challenge me to be better and think differently.

Thanks Woody. Pleasure to meet you.


Author: Terry Bunio

Terry Bunio is passionate about his work as the Manager of the Project Management Office at the University of Manitoba. Terry oversees the governance on Information Technology projects to make sure the most important projects are being worked on in a consistent and effective way. Terry also provides leadership on the customized Project Methodology that is followed. The Project Methodology is a equal mix of Prince2, Agile, Traditional, and Business Value. Terry strives to bring Brutal Visibility, Eliminating Information islands, Right Sizing Documentation, Promoting Collaboration and Role-Based Non-Consensus, and short Feedback Loops to Minimize Inventory to the Agile Project Management Office. As a fan of pragmatic Agile, Terry always tries to determine if we can deliver value as soon as possible through iterations. As a practical Project Manager, Terry is known to challenge assumptions and strive to strike the balance between the theoretical and real world approaches for both Traditional and Agile approaches. Terry is a fan of AWE (Agile With Estimates), the Green Bay Packers, Winnipeg Jets, and asking why?

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