Using Fibonacci suit to estimate is cool, but nearly ununderstandable for anyone used to estimate in hours. How many times have we heard: “Ok, so, one point is one hour, right?” ? Ok, estimation based on complexity or effort is not intuitive. Can we use some tool to make a strict distinction between hours based estimation and complexity based estimation? Well, let’s try with the Cynefin framework, designed by Dave Snowden.

What is Cynefin?

A really simple framework, helpfull to categorize complex, complicated and obvious items, whatever they are. Here a copy/paste from wikipedia:

The Cynefin framework has five domains. The first four domains are:

  • Obvious – replacing the previously used terminology Simple from early 2014 – in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious to all, the approach is to Sense – Categorise – Respond and we can apply best practice.
  • Complicated, in which the relationship between cause and effect requires analysis or some other form of investigation and/or the application of expert knowledge, the approach is to Sense – Analyze – Respond and we can apply good practice.
  • Complex, in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect, but not in advance, the approach is to Probe – Sense – Respond and we can sense emergent practice.
  • Chaotic, in which there is no relationship between cause and effect at systems level, the approach is to Act – Sense – Respond and we can discover novel practice.
  • The fifth domain is Disorder, which is the state of not knowing what type of causality exists, in which state people will revert to their own comfort zone in making a decision. In full use, the Cynefin framework has sub-domains, and the boundary between obvious and chaotic is seen as a catastrophic one: complacency leads to failure.

How to use Cynefin when estimating?

While we estimate a backlog item, we quickly define where it should be placed on Cynefin. And, for each Cynefin case, if we arbitrary set a range of “basic” points, we should have a first estimation idea.

For example:

  • Obvious: from 0 to 3.
  • Complicated: from 5 to 13.
  • Complex: above 20.
  • Chaotic items may be unestimable..

Then, if needed, we adjust the value. For example, if an item is obvious but we know that it will generate a lot of work effort, estimation should be changed.