Estimating effort in a fully loaded system is a poor man's try of achieving predictability while eroding trust and jeopardizing psychological safety


If an org is fully loaded with work, i.e. has a very high utilization rate (almost all of them are, unfortunately) then most of the work’s lead time is actually spent in wait time, instead of being worked on.

Thus, the leverage point for more predictability is not estimating, as popularly thought, but reducing the utilization rate in order to increase the flow through the system.

Asking people to estimate in a fully loaded system doesn’t make much sense since it boils down to asking to estimate the wait time, while we actually assume estimating the effort.

Even worse, because estimates of effort in such systems are so often so much off, asking people to estimate is putting them between a rock and a hard place of very likely missed estimates and (implicit or explicit) expectations.

That in turn erodes trust between parties and jeopardizes psychological safety for people involved in the process.