07 - 09 November 2018

M Shed, Bristol

Session type:
Case Study

Session duration:
60 minutes

Presented by:

Scott Seivwright


About this Case Study

One of the most controversial, political and misunderstood techniques in the agile toolbox is story point estimation. It's the solution to - and the cause of - many of our problems! In this session, we will look at how story points are a painful tool for new teams in measuring capacity and relative velocity. But then suddenly they become easy and much more abstract. Why?

The detailed cognitive processes that are related to the use of story points will be discussed. Why are they so difficult to use initially, and why are they so easy to use with a mature, stable team? Why is there a rejection of their use by many?

This session will ask some very interesting questions that we gloss over, like:

  • what do story points really represent - time, complexity or something else that is intuitive?
  • what is going on during the calibration process and how does this relate to the theory of the mind?
  • what evolutionary development in humans does the story point process use?
  • do we have a pre-numeric human estimation system clashing with numbers, initially causing cognitive dissonance?
  • does that system take over - eventually hijacking the numbers?
This session proposes a new theory of what story points start as and what they become in the human minds of a team, relating the calibration process to Bohme dialogue and non-linguistic/non-numeric reasoning by the subconscious brain. We'll ultimately argue that there may be a better, more human way to abstract estimation in a non-numeric intuitive way.

This session was inspired by watching how new members of a team who've had no agile experience interacted with an existing group who were calibrated and using story points almost subconsciously and in great alignment. Are there early human thinking systems driving this process? Is that why story points are so controversial?

About the Speaker

Scott Seivwright is passionate about the benefits of agile software development processes and using better ways of working to create predictable, quality software releases that delight customers. He has achieved this through agile coaching and senior delivery roles. One of his main specialities is aligning business needs and vision into reality through the use of technology.

Understanding that projects deliver through people, Scott always builds a human workplace where everyone can bring their whole self to work. He has successfully delivered in many environments, and in many different industries, including financial and regulatory environments, health/life sciences, government, utilities and military.

Respected for his views in the agile community, he is a regular and popular contributor to Lean Agile Edinburgh, co-organiser for Scaling Agile Scotland and now the Atlassian user group in Glasgow. Scott is a recognised speaker in the agile software development community and a thought leader in making things better.


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