Based on what we know today…

Posted by Doc
Mar 03 2011

One of the things I like about Agile is honesty.

In traditional/waterfall, it’s all too likely that we are being dishonest, either through commission or omission: about being on time; about how much is left to do; about when we’ll be done; about the quality of our work. The whole system seems to encourage, or at least support, this kind of dishonesty.

Let me be clear: I am not condemning waterfall wholesale, nor those who practice waterfall. I am examining the cultural biases generated by this approach, and the effects they have on the people.

A phrase I use frequently in Agile:

Based on what we know today, if nothing changes,…

Think about a burn-up chart or burn-down chart. It is immediate. It is based on what we know today, and the forecast/projection only holds true if nothing changes. All the information is clear, it’s right out there for anyone to see, and it’s honest.

When will the project be done? Based on what we know today, if nothing changes…

Because we allow for changes in scope and capacity (velocity), all we know for sure is based on what we’ve accomplished to date, and the current status.

How much is left to do? Based on what we know today, if nothing changes…

As above, the scope might change. If the scope doesn’t change, then we can look at a burn-up chart and tell, with some accuracy, how much is left to do between now and when the progress line touches the scope line.

It goes on and on. The charts are on the wall (including the card wall itself) or in some readily accessible and visible virtual location (like in Mingle).

When I do training, I always make sure that people learn this: “Based on what we know today, if nothing changes…”

It’s honest, based on history, experience, and evidence, and it’s all there for anyone to see.

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