The Slicing Heuristic - A #NoEstimates Method for Defining, Splitting, Measuring and Predicting Work

This is a concept I devised a couple of years ago, and it seems there is a new #NoEstimates audience that would like to know more about it.

A Slicing Heuristic is essentially:

An explicit policy that describes how to "slice" work Just-In-Time to help us create consistency, a shared language for work and better predictability.

The Slicing Heuristic seeks to replace deterministic estimation rituals by incorporating empirical measurement of actual cycle times for the various types of work in your software delivery lifecycle.

It is based on the hypothesis that empiricism leads to smaller cycle time duration and variation (which in business value terms means quicker time to market and better predictability) because it requires work to be sliced into clear, simple, unambiguous goals. Crucially, the heuristic also describes success criteria to ensure it is achieving the level of predictability we require.

Its application is most effective when used for all levels of work, but can certainly be used for individual work types. For example, a User Story heuristic can be an extremely effective way of creating smaller, simpler work increments, allowing teams to provide empirical forecasts without the need for estimating how long individual stories will take. However, if you are able to incorporate this concept from the portfolio level down, the idea is that you define each work type (e.g. Program, Project, Feature, User Story, etc.) along with a Slicing Heuristic, which forms part of that work type’s Definition of Ready.

This talk will equip teams and organisations who are established on their Agile journey with a robust, clear and repeatable method for improving the quality and time-to-market of their software development efforts.

 
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Outline/structure of the Session

0-10mins: Define method

  • What is a slicing heuristic?
  • Talk about the importance of empiricism (empirical process control theory) to scaled success with Agile software development

10-20: Why this method?

  • Explain that slicing is crucial to Agile, so explicit methods are important
  • Talk about the need for defining "done" at all work levels, and meeting it to ensure progress isn't false
  • Explain the "1 acceptance test" heuristic as a team level example

20-35: Widening the reach of the method

  • How to create a common domain language to increase understanding of the different types and levels of work in your organisation
  • Portfolio examples of the method
  • Embracing Definition of Ready to help set up teams for success

35-45: Q&A

Learning Outcome

- The importance of empiricism (empirical process control theory) to your success with Agile software development
- How to create a common domain language to increase understanding of the different types and levels of work in your organisation
- How to improve predictability of software development in your organisation with effective slicing and time analysis techniques
- How to better trace the team's day-to-day work with portfolio level outcomes
- Embracing Definition of Ready to help set up teams for success

Target Audience

Project/Program Managers, Scrum Masters, Developers

schedule Submitted 2 years ago

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comment Comment on this Proposal
  • Srinath Chandrasekharan
    By Srinath Chandrasekharan  ~  1 year ago
    reply Reply

    Neil,

    Your session looks interesting. I have a few questions .

    1. I  saw your video and I believe that you are referring to a new product development in most of the session. I believe that a lot of people in the audience is going to be people who would be working on Enhancements and maintenance kind of work. In this scenario, how do you think stories can be sliced.  

    2. One challenge I have seen in some of my projects is that the business wants to come and test only if there is something meanidngful as a functionality or feature and they do feel that spending time giving fedback in bits and pieces is an over head . What's your experience on this front ?

    3. Slicing a story to smaller ones to achievemore predicability would also increase the overhead in managing them and tracking them ? Have you experienced this and if yes, would you be addressing how you tackled this

     

    Regards,

    Srinath

    • Neil Killick
      By Neil Killick  ~  1 year ago
      reply Reply

      Thanks for your comments Srinath.

      1. To be clear, my talk is not going to cover the actual slicing of stories in too much detail. There are many talks, articles and books etc. on story slicing techniques that apply to new product development as well as enhancements and maintenance work.

      I will be talking about a method for applying slicing and cycle time measurement as an explicit activity to enable more transparent and empirical product development. I will certainly give concrete examples of slicing heuristics that people can try.

      2. Your experience with stakeholders not caring too much about incremental delivery is a common one. This is why it's important to have a shared, organisation-wide common language for the different work types that the different level stakeholders care about. This will be covered in my talk.

      3. Slicing stories reduces overhead because the need to estimate individual stories dissipates (you can just count them). There is the "overhead" of tracking cycle time, but I would argue this is very simple to do. I will cover this in my talk as well.

  • tim born
    By tim born  ~  1 year ago
    reply Reply

    Love the proposal Neil.  Ron Jeffries has offered conditional support and raised concerns, among them that, while the problem is clear, the solution is not.


    "We need some help here in understanding what the #NoEstimates idea really is.

    How to apply #NoEstimates isn’t entirely clear."  - Ron Jeffries - The NoEstimates Movement - http://ronjeffries.com/xprog/articles/the-noestimates-movement/

     

    I'm sure many folks would love to have these concerns addressed in your talk, please.

    • Neil Killick
      By Neil Killick  ~  1 year ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Tim,

      Should I be given the opportunity, this talk will provide a high level insight into some concrete applications of #NoEstimates ideas, such as:

      • Empirical measurement vs team estimation
      • Managing cost and value risk via drip-funding, time-boxing and iteration
      • Improving predictability vs improving predictions
      • Frequent releasing, radical collaboration and ruthless scope management

      Given the enormity of the topic, I am happy to conduct a longer session if preferred by the organisers.

      Many thanks,

      Neil

  • Naresh Jain
    By Naresh Jain  ~  1 year ago
    reply Reply

    Thanks for the proposal Neil. I think this proposal is a better fit under the "Agile in the Trenches" theme. Would you please update the proposal to move it there?

    • Neil Killick
      By Neil Killick  ~  1 year ago
      reply Reply

      Hi Naresh. Sorry for the delay, I've just got back from a 3 week holiday in Hawaii :) I've now updated the theme. Cheers.


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    This topic has popped up in my mind through an observation of a practical problem I found yesterday. I thought to apply some lean principles to resolve this problem. I am proposing the problem statement here in this forum and the idea is to have an interactive workshop to come up with possible solutions to address this problem using Lean thinking/principles. Here are the details.

    Yesterday I visited Hyderabad Zoo (Nehru zoological Park) along with my cousins families. We are 12 members including adults and children. Earlier till November 2014, visitors cars were directly allowed inside with an additional fee of 200 rupees per car. I visited the Zoo before 2014 November and it was an awesome experience going by our own car and stop wherever you want for however long you want. Now, as they stopped allowing private cars inside, they arranged electric cars rides inside the Zoo. Below is the process and problem statement that I observed.

    1. The fee for one adult is 50 Rs and child is 30 Rs for Electric car

    2. Tickets will be given only at the entrance of the Zoo that is located outside the compound wall (You will not know how many members are waiting for electric cars inside)

    3. Tickets once sold cannot be refunded or exchanged

    4. There are limited electric cars available to cater the crowd (I got the info that around 25 cars)

    5. Each ride takes 40 minutes. It will stop at various locations where you can get down the car and visit the animals and come back to go to next stop

    6. Each car can take up to 12 members including the driver (

    7. You have to get onto the car at only one starting location and get down at the same point after the ride is complete. If you want to give away the ride in between its fine up to you

     

    The problems I observed and want to solve these problems by applying lean principles:

    1. At the time of buying the tickets:

         a. I did not have any clue on how many cars are there inside

         b. How long each trip takes

         c. How many members are in waiting

         d. Whether I can take the car and leave it at some place and visit the animals and by the time I come back after my visit there can be some other car available to take me to next stop or not

    2. I had to wait more than 1.5 hours to get my turn to have a car available

    3. The driver told that if I can give him 300 Extra we can take our own time to visit and he will not mind (this is the primary cause of the long queues I observed)

    4. Weekend visitors are more than 2 times of weekday visitors

    5. The queue is not properly managed so at times I observed people are joining in the middle of the queue and making it even more worst

    What I want to resolve:

    1. Reduce the waiting time

    2. Address the loophole of extending the ride by giving bribe to the car driver

    3. Address the queue management inconsistencies

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    Krishnamurty VG Pammi - Lean Scrum - The need of the hour

    Krishnamurty VG Pammi
    Krishnamurty VG Pammi
    Agile Coach
    IVY Comptech
    schedule 2 years ago
    Sold Out!
    45 mins
    Talk
    Intermediate

    The 2015 state of scrum report published by Scrum Alliance states that the outlook of scrum is highly favourable. Virtually all consider it likely that their organization will use scrum in future. While this is good, the survey also noted one of the key challenges observed by survey respondents as “Product owners and teams were just not willing and/or enthusiastic about Scrum best practices”. Thus, although scrum methodologies have greatly increased productivity, scrum is not without its problems. We need to quickly address this gap.

    Keeping scrum values at the core, scrum methodology is mostly visible to teams on the ground in terms of three pillars (1) Scrum roles (2) Scrum artifacts and (3) Scrum events. While Scrum has kept scrum roles and scrum artifacts lean, it has empowered teams on the ground to learn the art of performing scrum. Scrum prescribed guidance on scrum events with clear purpose, frequency, maximum duration and recommended attendees. It recommends teams to learn the art of performing scrum events through their experience stating “scrum is easy to understand and difficult to implement”

    While some scrum teams mastered this art, I find most of the scrum teams are still struggling in this process. I come across situations where teams are not finding scrum events interesting primarily because they find these events unproductive. The result is that we see less interactions and cooperation from the teams during scrum events. This is impacting basic agile manifesto “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools". In net, there is no surprise when product owners and teams were just not willing and/or enthusiastic about Scrum best practices.

    Lean Scrum is the need of the hour. As part of lean scrum, we will adopt scrum methodology at the core and we implement lean framework to address the pain areas witnessed by teams

    As part of this talk, I will share my experiential insights on

    1. Outlook of scrum is highly favourable. Although scrum methodologies have greatly increased productivity, scrum is not without its problems. We need to quickly address these gaps
    2. While scrum has kept scrum roles and scrum artifacts lean, it has empowered teams on the ground to learn the art of performing scrum events. Are we keeping these events lean and Valuable?
    3. Lean scrum – The need of the hour
    4. What is Lean Scrum
    5. Anti-Patterns/Most frequently faced challenges/ wastes experienced by scrum teams in each of the scrum events (case findings based on my experience)
    6. Where do the scrum teams stand on "expected scrum patterns" in each of the scrum events (case findings based on my experience)
    7. Leverage "Lean Framework" to craft scrum events towards value generation. How to draw "AS-IS" and "TO-BE" Value stream management maps for two scrum events.
    8. Leverage "Lean framework" to help scrum teams to learn the art of performing scrum events through realizing value and enhancing their reach on "expected scrum patterns".
    9. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software” The term value is increasingly becoming starting point of what we do. We need to keep questioning everything we do using customer value generation as the yard stick

    Unless, we drive scrum events towards value generation by continuously eliminating waste/ anti patterns, there is no surprise that “Product owners and teams were just not willing and/or enthusiastic about Scrum best practices” as observed by "The 2015 state of scrum" report.

    This is where Lean-scrum could prove to be powerful...