Differentiating Between Estimating and Committing

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along faster, resulting in something of value being delivered frequently. The continual releases of the product have the potential to peak interest and increase the project's momentum. As each increment of the product is completed and released, the next product increment becomes a more attractive prospect for executives and the project sponsor, as x amount of work is already completed and the development effort is x amount of time closer to being finished.

When we base agile-lean product development on incremental funding and on objective demonstrations of working software instead of on milestones based on imprecise and inaccurate estimates, we have ongoing opportunities to assess and adjust. The result is delivering commercial or operational value early and often, giving ourselves the best opportunity to beat the competition to market, satisfy the customer, realize revenue early, and discover insights that we can use to help us improve.

In agile, lean commitments made to getting work done should be done incrementally, so you can quickly adapt to change and use resources effectively and efficiently throughout the product lifecycle. Therefore, incremental funding is advantageous when being agile and lean.

Final Thoughts
In agile and lean, accuracy (the measure of bias) and precision (the measure of spread) are very important when making a commitment for what you are going to get done in an iteration, but not so important when making an estimate for how long you think it will take you to develop and deliver the entire product.

It is realistic to ask the agile-lean product (system-software) development team early in the product development lifecycle to estimate how long it will take them to develop and deliver the product. It is unrealistic early in the product development lifecycle to ask for a commitment to getting everything imaginable done.

Many organizations, especially early adopters of agile-lean product development, have difficulty differentiating between estimating how long it will take to do something and making a commitment to do what you say you will do. They erroneously consider estimates and commitments to be equal. They assume the commitment to cost, schedule, scope, and quality equates to the estimate—it doesn't.

About the Author
Russell Pannone is the founder of We Be Agile and the Agile Lean Phoenix User Group , the Agile-Lean Adoption Lead and Coach at US Airways.

With almost thirty years of system-software development and delivery experience, Russell’s focus is on working side by side with folks on real projects to help them deliver valuable system-software to production early and often. He gives those with whom he collaborates the best opportunity to beat the competition to market, realize revenue, and discover insights that can foster improvement.

Contact Russell at rpannone@webeagile.com.

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