How can i estimate my testing

Have you had anyone ask you a question about estimation? I get asked these types of questions and I suspect that the person really wants answers about how to communicate and justify their guesses.
I think they hope that some process exists which will accurately and objectively give them a set of numbers. And by using these numbers they can disavow responsibility for the production of them. And no-one will hold them responsible if the objectively produced ‘estimate’ does not meet reality.
Well in reality ‘Estimate’ really equals ‘Guess’.
So if you want some strategies:
Answer the question you want them to ask
Ask how long they want it to take
Trust your gut
Assumptions, Risks and Issues
Track the passage of time
I could add an etc. in there, to alert you to the incompleteness of all of this.
But I won’t.
You should assume incompleteness in my presentation. And map it on to your model to identify the blanks.
What culture do you think you work in?
Do you think you work in a culture where ‘estimates’ and ‘actual time’ have become synonyms?
Do ‘they’ berate you for continuing to work, after the ‘estimated’ length of time has passed?
Well, you have learned that regardless of where the estimate came from ‘they’ will still hold you responsible for it.
So you need to develop some beliefs. You need to believe that “estimate equals guess”.
You need to believe that any supporting documentation for your guess does not provide a justification for it, it provides a partial model of the thinking that led to the guess.
‘They’ don’t need to believe any of this.
You need to.
Then your communication will change.
Estimates equals Guesses
All estimates equate to GUESSES.
We don’t know how long things will take.

/> I’m a pretty good psychic. But even I don’t know.
Sometimes we put a framework around our GUESSES. And that can reveal some of our ASSUMPTIONS. It can reveal what RISKS we have considered. It can reveal what ISSUES we perceive.
The framework reveals part of the model we think we used when creating the GUESS. It helps us explain how we created the GUESS.
But even when we do that, our estimates remain GUESSES.
So what could you do?
Do you try and ‘educate’ them?
I don’t.
I’m obnoxious like that.
So if you get asked “How long will your testing take?”
Don’t say “I will provide you with an estimate for testing.”
Say “I don’t know.”
The conversation might end there.
You might respond with the question you want them to ask.
So if you get asked “How long will your testing take?”
Ask “Do you mean? If I had to guess, right now, how long I think it will take for you to have enough information that you can decide whether or not you want to release this? If so then…”
Yup. I say stuff like that.
Because then we start talking about what they really want to know.
I don’t think I engage in an education process. I try and communicate so we all work from the same assumptions and understandings.
The test managers among you might feel a little nervous with this. As a test manager I used to feel nervous saying that. So you might ask instead:
“How long do you want it to take?”
We live in a world of deadlines. So guesses often don’t help very much.
By asking “How long do you want it to take?” you can build a plan which tries to maximise the value that you can add as quickly as possible before the deadline. Work on the high value items, risks and issues.
Don’t worry about the guesses. Think about the constraints.

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