“Just try it”? How NOT to sell a controversial idea

Alas: when it comes to pitching a controversial idea, many of us in technology fail miserably. We often fall reflexively into extreme “oversalesmanship” of a pet idea. We tend towards the binary: we seem to find it next to impossible to see the idea’s downsides, or to imagine how other people might be viewing it and how we could usefully, effectively, and without condescension counter their various objections (i.e., barriers to the “sale”) of our idea. 

Instead, here’s how we often react. We “flip the bozo bitall too readily on anyone who criticizes our baby: such folks are clearly clueless, we think; we rant that they must not be technical; they’ve “probably never written software at all” and “possibly can’t work their <expletive> email; they’re a PHB; they’re a troll; they’re a dinosaur; we can’t wait for them to die out so we, the enlightened wizards, can take over. (Actual examples of such declarations are easy to find).

None of this attitude is inevitable or unfixable. A start at combating this weakness when selling others on a controversial idea is to heighten our own awareness of the problem. Inspect and adapt, after all. So let’s focus here on one particular tactic of such bad salesmanship, as frequently employed by the (yes, very controversial) #NoEstimates movement: the “just try it” taunt. [Read more…]

“Definitions of #NoEstimates”? An enumerated list of counterpoints, Part I.

A week or two ago, we saw the first interesting new blog post on the bizarre and rancorous #NoEstimates movement in quite some time. Although that post is titled “definitions of #NoEstimates”, it’s not really “definitions” per se; it seems instead to be more of a mixed list of NE approaches (sometimes contradictory, as the author himself notes) and miscellaneous arguments that have been frequently made in favor of the movement. To the best of my knowledge, no such overall compilation has ever been made by a #NoEstimates proponent; as such, I applaud Jay Bazuzi for putting it together.

Of course, each of the described approaches/arguments has been outlined (and countered) individually many times before. But as far as I know, none of the major NE advocates has ever actually addressed any of the counterpoints to them, choosing instead just to block and insult the people making those counterpoints, often boasting proudly that they do so to “filter out the noise”.

In any case, let’s centralize those counterpoints now: here’s an item-by-item recap, springboarding off of Jay’s enumerated list of #NoEstimates approaches. For reasons of space and manageability, I’m splitting this rundown of counterpoints into two separate posts. Here goes: [Read more…]

Quocknipucks, or, why story points make sense. Part II.

Last time, I set the stage for why Quocknipucks (OK, I mean story points), despite being the target of recent severe Agile backlash, actually do provide a sensible and workable solution to the two most difficult aspects of software team sprint and  capacity planning. I elaborated on the ways that Quocknipucks story points solve these two problems, in that they:

  • Enable us to gauge the team’s overall capacity to take on work, by basing it on something other than pure gut and/or table-pounding; and
  • Enable us to fill that team capacity suitably, despite having items of different size, and, again, basing our choices on something other than pure gut.

But there’s lots more to cover. I have more observations about the role of story points, and I want to provide some caveats and recommendations for their use.  And it’s also worthwhile to list the various objections that people routinely make to story points, and provide some common sense reasons for rejecting those objections.

[Read more…]