Let’s begin with the definitions which every teammate should be fluent with. Those are neither abstract or subjected to interpretations:
Task: A well defined, short-term goal.
Done: The definition of a task that is ready for production.
Estimation: An amount of time take for a task to be “Done.”
Delivery: A set of tasks wrapped up to a contextual and meaningful value.
Deadline: A date; in which delivery is set to be fully operational.
Once well defined and fluently spoken, you are already halfway from a well-estimating and deadlines-savvy workplace.
There is no magic trick for estimating right and setting up vital deadlines, as it requires experience from you and from your teammates in knowing yourselves and knowing the nature of your collaboration.
The mysteries of the “buffer”
There are two types of deadlines. Deadlines that are dictated by a client, and common deadlines set by the business.
Deadlines set by the business meant to maintain a healthy and highly productive working rhythm, keeping the company on track to achieve a crucial longer-term deadline dictated by the market, investors, or others who the business success is dependant on.
To fulfilled its purpose, a deadline should be taken seriously and be fairly ambitious.
As being semi-artificial by nature, the consequences of not meeting those business-set deadlines may not be tangible. Thus you should continuously take measures to avoid missing them so the sense of their importance will be maintained.
This is a game of keeping it ambitious but yet achievable. Or, in other words — a Game of Buffers.
Assuming that the tendency to over\under estimating tasks is continuously discussed and improved with each one of your teammates.
How one estimate a task with a high level of unawareness?
Reminder: We have defined “task” as “A well defined short-term goal.”.
Given a task with a high level of unawareness, we split it into two tasks:
1. Research and evaluation
We assign a limited timeframe for the first one. By the end of it, we should have a better sight of what should be implemented and how long would it bufferly take. Then we decide whether it should enter the delivery and in what form.
Everything should and can be estimated; at any given time.
This task is so mysterious that we are still unable to estimate it.
Then assign a limited (buffered) time frame for implementing it. Revaluate while the mystery fades.
Good news, it took less than we expected, we are ahead of schedule.
Good news, indeed. But remember that we have another concern to be minded of — an ambitious deadline. This is an opportunity to add more content to the delivery. It may be additional features, extra tests, or anything else that increase the value or the quality of the delivery.
Two days ahead of schedule, and there is no 2-days task to add there.
Good job, mates! You have finished early. Will we manage to do the same on the next, brand new and exciting delivery?
We’ve got some unplanned musts. Help!
Isn’t there enough place left in the buffer? Jump to the next one.
Bad news, it seems like we are not going to meet the deadline.
It is a great thing to notice that you are not going to meet the deadline as soon as possible. The sooner, the more leeway to revise this unfortunate future and meeting the deadline after all:
- Reduce delivery.
Does everything in the delivery is a definite must for achieving its goal?
- Simplify some of the tasks that have left.
You will have many more opportunities to build Rome in a day.
Treat deadlines as sacred. Never postpone.
Either reducing the delivery or implementing a simplified\partial version of the tasks is better than postponing the deadline. This way — we feel that we lost something. The secrecy of the deadline, though, preserved.
Read about How to nail challenging deadlines without scarifying quality on my other blog post.
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