Guesses, Estimating or Guesstimating – Part II

I’ve spent a good portion of this morning filling out multiple brackets for different pools before the start of the NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament. I couldn’t but help notice that the programs asked me to guess my picks. I’ve posted previously on the difference between a guess, guesstimate and estimate and I wondered if this had any relevance to filling out brackets..

A guess would be making a pick without any information on the teams playing.  A guesstimate would be making a pick based on some existing knowledge of college basketball and the teams playing.  An estimate would be making picks based on some degree of rigor which would possibly include a study of the teams, their seasons and the matchup between the teams.  Sports analysts make estimate type picks.

So what kind of pick did I make? Well given that I follow mens’s college basketball a little bit, I suppose my picks are more guesstimates than guesses.  I really didn’t do any analysis, I just picked based on some pre-existing knowledge of some of the teams and tournaments past.  But I’m pretty certain that some of my team members who are in this pool are simply guessing.  This reminded me of something that happened recently where a business owner provided a one page list of features that they wanted add to their system and asked me how long I thought it would take. I guesstimated that it would take at least a couple of months.  I consider this to be a guesstimate (and not a guess) because I used knowledge gained from my experience developing software systems.  I couldn’t see how a one page listing of features would not take as least months but for all I know, it could be years, then again, maybe it will be weeks.

Reflecting on this a bit more, it occurred to me that many of the answers (to questions that get asked in the day-to-day ongoings of a software development team) that the teams I have been a part of have provided as estimates were really either guesses (because we have no idea or knowledge to work with) or guesstimates (based on some residual knowledge that we have).  It’s sort of like being asked for juice and providing flavored water instead. Even though the drink tastes good, its still not juice.

So what does this have to with #NoEstimates?  Well it has been suggested that some within the #NoEstimates movement believe that estimates are guesses.  I don’t believe estimates are guesses but have observed that  guesses (and guesstimates) are very often provided as (if they are) estimates.  So how do we address this?  I see two options that I do not believe are mutually exclusive (a) actually provide true estimates (b) remove the need for estimates in the first place. Personally, I’m interested in both options.

Enjoy the tourney!


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