Agile Planning: Remaining Work Hours > Completed Work Hours

80DoneTeams I Scrum Master do not track completed hours.  Remaining work hours are the ticket.  That is where the real information is held.  This is not an easy transition for the Project Manager in all of us.  Even for the team members, many of whom have been asked to track completed work hours for years and years, it can be difficult to give up the mentality of reducing a bank of hours predefined prior to the task starting. 

So you ask: by tracking completed hours, don’t you simply subtract the completed hours from the original estimate and then you have Remaining work hours anyway?  No.  The only way that would be true is if all the original estimates were perfect from the start.  That simply isn’t true, and contrary to Agile thinking where you expect change, embrace it actually. 

Statements like “I am 80% done” go away.  Any experienced Project Manager will cringe at the sound of that statement as we all know the PM truism that it’s that last 20% that seems to take longer than that first 80% reportedly done did.  The remaining hours are all you hear about and doesn’t that really tell the story you want to know anyway, mainly: how long until the work is done?

A big question I have heard regarding this switch is: “If we don’t track actual hours, how do we ever know if our estimates are getting better?”  Scrum’s answer: the Velocity metric will take care of that.   It really isn’t about being ultra accurate estimation wise, but instead it’s more about sizing tasks well to allow for achievable Sprint goals when picking tasks to commit to for the upcoming sprint.  Tracking actual completed work hours does not directly help with that goal what so ever.

When the team switches to reporting just Remaining work hours, they also need to switch their mentality to one that has them reevaluating how much work is left on the task at least once a day and updating the task to reflect this info.  It’s important to stress that the tally can go up… it’s not a number to decrement only (an old habit of completed hours reporting that can be hard to break).

Next up in this series, the importance of making it E-A-S-Y for the team to update Remaining work hours at any time.

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