XP iterations, estimating and executing (an add-on) – level 200

This is a response to Sam Gentile’s post: Iteration
XV and IterationXVI – The One Week Iterations

My team does 2 week iterations, and I think that timeframe works well.  It’s just enough time to bite off a measurable amount of work while minimizing the percentage of overhead that iteration planning brings.

Our boss keeps an Excel spreadsheet with our burndown list for the purpose of keeping upper management up-to-date, but the team goes off of the whiteboard.  The whiteboard is the master list and can be updated at any time. 

6 months ago, iteration planning took all day to do because we were unorganized, and we got too much into analysis (off track).  Now, our iteration plannings are much more focused.  If we have unanswered questions, we throw an analysis spike on the storyboard.  This keeps our planning meeting on target.  Now we have it down to about 2 hours. 

We estimate in points first to cap the work for an iteration.  Then we break down the stories into tasks and estimate in ideal hours.  Our minimum for a task is 2 hours, since nothing EVER takes just “5 minutes”. 

Last iteration, we got half-way through and were 3 days behind.  We had grossly underestimated.  It worked out, though because we caught up with some tasks that were grossly overestimated. 🙂  We’re still getting better.