Watch Now: What to Do When Teams and Stakeholders Want Perfect Estimates

Today’s post introduces the second installment in a series of free training videos tackling common problems teams face when estimating with story points. The training will be available until Wednesday, April 21 9 p.m. Pacific. To watch this video and find out when the next video is released, sign up here.

In video one, I shared a sample of feedback we received about our coaching advice, designed to help teams resist the temptation to equate points to time.

But even when teams do understand this, they can run headlong into another problem:

The problem of perfection.

Video #2 Getting Hung Up Trying to Create Perfect Estimates

One problem teams face when trying to create ‘perfect’ estimates (other than the fact that perfect estimates don’t exist) is that teams and stakeholders aren’t all in agreement about what an estimate is, and how it should be used.

Management needs to prioritize work, and they also love metrics. So they tend to push for estimates that will tell them when something will be done.

But most teams can tell you: managers can take an estimate as a promise and become angry if it’s missed. Uncomfortable situation.

This can lead to teams padding their estimates to avoid punishment, but it’s a terrible idea to do this (watch the video to see why).

Elaine could relate to this. Her team was being forced to give estimates that were used for burndown. Video 2 gave her some new ideas to try:

Chris Exley was also facing this same challenge—and liked the ideas he learned in the training video on how to explain it to stakeholders and management.

Watch video 2 to learn:

  • What leads teams to pad estimates, and why it might seem like a good idea—but isn’t (and learn why padding often doesn’t even prevent late deliveries)
  • Why it’s important to discuss with your team what type of estimate you want to create
  • How to deal with management demands for guarantees instead of estimates

Watch Video Two Now

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Mike Cohn

About the Author

Mike Cohn specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques to build extremely high-performance teams. He is the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile as well as the Better User Stories video course. Mike is a founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance and can be reached at If you want to succeed with agile, you can also have Mike email you a short tip each week.