Book Review: Agile Estimating and Planning

Authors:      Mike Cohn
Published:   2005
Publisher:   Prentice Hall
Paperback: 368 pages

This book is perhaps the most cited reference on estimation and planning by agilists. It is not just about “how to estimate and plan an Agile project”. The main objective  is to show how to bring in agility in the estimating and planning process itself.That’s the reason why the author, Mike Cohn has named this book “Agile Estimating and Planning” and not “Estimating and Planning Agile Projects”.
Reading Mike Cohn’s books is always a worthwhile investment of your time. The language he uses is simple and easy to understand for a non-native speaker of English. And this is very important since agile movement is rapidly spreading across non-English speaking countries. The techniques he recommends in his books are very practical and deliver results. And this book is no exception.
It consists of twenty-three  chapters organized in seven parts .Each chapter begins with a very pithy and apt quote about planning and ends with a summary of key points and with a set of discussion questions.
Part I The Problem and The Goal: The purpose of planning; why traditional approaches of estimating and planning lead to project failure; a high-level overview of agile approach towards estimation and planning.
Part II Estimating Size: Two measures of a feature size – story points and ideal time; techniques for estimating the size; advice on how to choose between estimating in story points and ideal time.
Part III Planning for Value: Four specific factors  to be considered when prioritizing user stories and themes; simple ways of modeling the financial return of a story or theme; two different approaches to assessing the desirability of stories and themes; advice on how to split large user stories or features into smaller ones.
Part IV Scheduling: Essential steps to planning a release and then to planning an iteration; selecting an appropriate iteration length; estimating velocity; planning projects with high schedule risks; estimating schedule much in advance with very little information; planning a project involving multiple teams.
Part V Tracking and Communicating: Monitoring release plan and iteration plan; various ways of communicating about estimates , plans and progress.
Part VI Why Agile Planning Works: Why agile estimating and planning are successful in achieving the purpose of the plan; guidelines for applying agile estimating and planning on  projects
Part VII The Case Study:  Main points of this book summarized in form of an extended case study about a fictitious company.
A MUST READ for all project managers from both Agile and Traditional projects !

Links :

Planning Quotes :
These pithy and apt quotes appear in the beginning of every chapter. They convey the essence of agile estimating and planning.

  • Planning is everything. Plans are nothing.”–Field Marshal Helmuth Graf von Moltke
  • “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”–Field Marshal Helmuth Graf von Moltke
  • “A good plan violently executed now is betterthan a perfect plan executed next week.”–General George S. Patton
  • “In a good shoe, I wear a size six, but a seven feels so good, I buy a size eight.” –Dolly Parton in Steel Magnolia
  • “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”–Leonard Bernstein
  • “Prediction is very difficult,especially about the future.”–Niels Bohr, Danish physicist
  • There’s no sense in being precise when you don’t even know what you’re talking about.”–John von Neumann
  • “If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results.”–General George S. Patton
  • “The indispensable first step to getting what you want is this:Decide what you want.”–Ben Stein
  • As a general rule of them,when benefits are not quantified at all,assume there aren’t any.”–Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
  • If you have a choice of two things and can’t decide, take both.”–Gregory Corso
  • “These days we do not program software module-by-module,we program software feature-by-feature.”–Mary Poppendieck
  • You improvise. You adapt. You overcome.”–Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge
  • “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”–Sherlock Holmes, Scandal In Bohemia
  • “Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.”–Bertrand Russell
  • “It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong.”–John Maynard Keynes
  • “To be uncertain is to be uncomfortable,but to be certain is to be ridiculous.”–Chinese proverb
  • “Do the planning, but throw out the plans.”–Mary Poppendieck
  • The stars might lie but the numbers never do.”–Mary-Chapin Carpenter, “I Feel Lucky
  • “Facts are better than dreams.”–Winston Churchill
  • “The more elaborate our means of communication,the less we communicate.”–Joseph Priestley
  • “If you want a guarantee, buy a toaster.”–Clint Eastwood in The Rookie
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