#NoEstimates straw man fallacy


Tools can be used correctly and incorrectly. This applies to Estimates as well as #NoEstimates. The tools themselves have no agenda. Therefore claiming tools such as knives, credit cards, or estimates are always bad doesn't make sense. It's in the hands of the person using the tool to apply it correctly.

Why is this important? Because one of the logical fallacies used repeatedly by the #NoEstimates proponents is the straw man fallacy, defined on Wikipedia as:

A straw man is a form of argument and an informal fallacy of having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted but instead replaced with a false one.

In this post, we will look into examples of how incorrect use of estimates are used as the 'straw man' and how it is also the backbone of the #NoEstimates book. We will also ask Why #NoEstimates proponents knowingly make false claims based on this fallacy.

How #NoEstimates use the straw man fallacy

Here is a clear example of this:

So instead of refuting 'best practices' for estimating, key #NoEstimates proponents using this tactic are only up to refuting the 'worst practices'. Why, might you ask? Because that's an argument that can easily be won. In the example, we see a fictional case of how not to think about estimates. However, the real subject of the argument - how you would use estimates - was not discussed at all. So what we see here is, quoting Wikipedia's definition again:

having the impression of refuting an argument, whereas the real subject of the argument was not addressed or refuted, but instead replaced with a false one.

Straw man fallacy backbone of #NoEstimates book

The same fallacy is the backbone of the #NoEstimates book. Even though the book was released in 2016, it is like the story happened in 1996. Why? Because none of the Agile best practices from 1996 - 2016 are part of the 'story case' in the beginning. So the method the book refutes is the method Winston Royce talked about back in 1970 and was later called Waterfall. Furthermore, Agile methods are used to get the project back on track. More on this in the post Methods applied in the #NoEstimates book.

This is not the first time the #NoEstimates proponents are using the Straw man fallacy, as can be seen by searching for "#NoEstimates strawman" on Twitter. This raises the question of why some key #NoEstimates proponents knowingly repeat false claims when they should know better?

Why #NoEstimates proponents are knowingly making false claims?

Now, this is an interesting question. In one part, it has to do with spreading the #NoEstimates idea, selling books, and related consultancy services. Another part has a darker side, as many are trapped into believing the false claims and taking up the harmful and aggressive black-and-white stance on estimates, wasting a lot of time in unproductive arguments and causing polarization in our community.

What's next?

In the next post, I will dive deeper into the purpose of repeating these false claims, keeping the polarization in our community rampant. The post, Did you get caught in the #NoEstimates trap?, shares an inconvenient truth about the methods we see used.

About Smart Guess We help teams educate stakeholders by providing actionable answers to common misconceptions about estimates. So more teams can use estimates to their advantage, and fewer are held accountable for delivering on impossible deadlines.

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