Woodland creature story sizing in practice

Today was my last day in Oslo, a chance to reflect on NDC and spend some time with the people I met. I had the pleasure of spending my last day with @toddhgardner, @mgasca, @reverentgeek and @timgthomas. Somewhere between the Maritime museum and the Viking museum we got talking about estimating, velocity and feature sizing.

I mentioned that some time last year our team stopped estimating features in terms of hours or days, we started talking about woodland creatures instead… because things makes more sense that way. Actually – we try not to use the word estimate at all.

Rather than explaining how this works myself, I’ll point you at the post that gave us the idea:


12 months on: We are still slaying dragons!

So how have we applied the ideas that @mattbarcomb wrote about in our project? We use a much smaller set of animals for simplicity’s sake:

–        Shrew (hopefully this will be pretty quick)

–        Squirrel (looks like a pretty typical-ish task)

–        Badger (probably a fairly chunky piece of work)

–        Bear (I’ll be stuck on this for a while…)

–        Dragon (we don’t know – but it looks scary! We need to do some investigations and break it down into smaller tasks)

The point is that one bear plus two shrews does not equal a release date.


The result is that we are able to set expectations far better with both our internal and external stakeholders. In actual fact, our end users (who are software developers themselves) tend to totally understand why we estimate this way and they stop asking us about release dates. (This is helped because we try to release routinely every Wednesday). They actually quite like it when I tell them about the bears and dragons!

Conversations with our internal stakeholders are easier because we are setting expectations correctly by giving managers (at various levels) a reasonably accurate representation of both the scale of the work and, importantly, the scale of the uncertainty, in a format that is very easy for them to understand – regardless of whether they have a background in coding or not.

Also – it’s kind of fun to talk about squirrels, badgers and dragons at the morning stand-up.

Come to think of it, I have a few bears to attend to myself when I get back to the office. On that note – if you are interested in joining our BETA program for a tool aimed at highlighting all the changes that are made to your SQL Server databases (for example hot fixes on production) please get in touch (@_AlexYates_) or sign up here:




After last year’s trip to NDC I’m really happy to announce that I’ll be back in Oslo for NDC 2015 and this time I’m delivering a couple of talks!


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