How Agile Improves Predictability

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There are two questions we get as VPs of Engineering from our bosses that we struggle with:
▪ How do you know your team is being productive?, and
▪ When is it going to be done?

Ron's answer to the first is: good first level managers all know whether their folks are productive and effective.

To the second, Ron has a solution that gets rave reviews…

“If only Agile had a way to predict when things would be done…” clients too often say to Ron.

But the thing is, Ron points out… Agile does have a way to predict when things will be done. Even better... It’s easy. And while his experience of the variance for results has been plus-or-minus 20%, he says that’s dramatically better than anything else his teams have ever used.

He claims he even had a product owner say, “I didn’t know estimating could be FUN!”

Relative sizing (true relative sizing) plus velocity (the averaged true experience of a stable team’s accomplished work per sprint) lets anyone march down the backlog and predict: “we’ll be about here on June 15th”, and ask, “do we have the right stuff above the line?” It’s not magic. (But it works like magic!)

Here is an article by Ron on Agile and Estimating:

Some agilists tell us that estimating does not provide value. Unfortunately, execs keep asking us for estimates! Once everyone understands and starts doing, we can reply with remarkably useful answers based on techniques that are useful not only for estimating but also for chartering and even self-organizing team-building.

During this workshop, we’ll use a simulation to actually practice estimating that works.

You’ll come away able to:
• understand why absolute estimating is futile
• effectively execute relative sizing
• understand the prerequisites for effective estimating
• avoid the pitfalls agile teams too often fall into that undercut effective estimating
• combine relative sizing and measures of velocity to predict what will be completed when
• build stakeholder confidence in your teams

Ron Lichty, co-author, Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams

Ron Lichty consults with software and product teams and organizations to make software development “hum”. Ron’s book, Managing the Unmanageable (, published by Addison Wesley, has been compared by many readers to programming classics The Mythical Man-Month and Peopleware. His Live Lessons: Managing Software People and Teams video training for managers is available via O’Reilly’s Safari Bookshelf.

Principal and owner of Ron Lichty Consulting, Inc. (, he has trained teams in Scrum, transitioned teams from waterfall to agile, coached teams already using agile to make their software development "hum", and trained managers in managing software people and teams. He takes on interim VP Engineering roles and to other clients provides VPE-level guidance and advice to untangle the knots in software development and transform chaos to clarity.

He has led teams and organizations at companies like Apple Computer, Fujitsu, Charles Schwab, Avenue A / Razorfish, Forensic Logic, Stanford, Check Point, and dozens of startups of all sizes. He co-chairs the Silicon Valley Engineering Leadership Community.


6:30 - 7:00 Networking / food
7:00 - 7:10 Intro / opening announcements
7:10 - 8:30 Keynote workshop
8:30 - 8:35 Closing announcements
8:35 - 8:45 Informal networking and followup Q&A
8:50 - 9:00 Clear the room


The Varian Cafeteria, 3130 Hansen Way, Palo Alto, has plentiful parking. If you map it on Google Maps, the pointer to 3130 Hansen Way, about at the kink in Hansen Way, is actually the closest parking lot. The cafeteria building is the buff curvy-winged building due south of the kink in Hansen Way. If you prefer public transportation, it's just a 22-minute walk from CalTrain's California Avenue station.