Agile Waste: Stop Using Story Points. Now.
Story points are waste. Creator of Story points, Ron Jefferies, summarized the waste:
- I think using them to predict “when we’ll be done” is at best a weak idea;
- I think tracking how actuals compare with estimates is at best wasteful;
- I think comparing teams on quality of estimates or velocity is harmful.
Today story points are a valueless data creation technique. At best it forecasts by burning down guessed effort on past work against guessed capacity of future work. That means even at its best it is waste.
Velocity has been weaponized against agility and adaptability. It appears when the creation of value is less important than the ability to measure output. Agile software development embraces the fact that often the increment will deliver something that the stakeholders don’t want; it is the iteration that delivers something stakeholders want. Maybe several iterations. In iterative agile development a feature is done when the customer says it is done, not when the developer says it is done.
Jim Highsmith suggested a way to mitigate the damage of story points; by diluting the waste of it with more useful data to “help balance the detrimental effects of velocity measures.”
Story points are estimates. Estimates are more phony than fact. Even the creators of Agile, also the creators and first users of story points, regularly failed at estimates; and regularly failed to fulfill sprint expectations. Not even after slicing. Not even with story points. Management insisted on numbers, commitments, velocity. So the creators of agile humored them with story points and trickery. They found a way to make management feel happy, by adding nothing but waste:
The secret to estimates: Yesterdays Weather. Martin Fowler described it as, “you should plan to do as much this iteration as you did last iteration”. To spell it out: the creators of agile took what they did last sprint, and pretended they were doing it this sprint. Points and estimates are not an intrinsic part of agile software development, but rather a bone to throw at wasteful project management attempts.
As expected Ron Jefferies clarified to teams who just don’t get agile software development, “I no longer recommend velocity, which means that I also no longer recommend story estimation in points or other measures… velocity is an obsolete topic”.
Congratulations, you can now give your company an easy win; stop using story points.