Zombie Estimation is where a team mechanically assigns story points to tasks without a true understanding or engagement in the purpose and method of estimation. This process becomes a ritual devoid of meaningful discussion, insight, or reflection on the complexity, effort, and risks involved in completing a task. The team goes through the motions of estimation, but the numbers lack consistency, insight, and fail to facilitate effective planning or reflection.

Characteristics of Zombie Estimation include:

Lack of Understanding: Team members may not fully understand what the story points represent or how to effectively gauge the size and complexity of a task. Story points are assigned arbitrarily, without a common baseline or understanding.

No Discussion or Debate: The team avoids deep discussions about differences in estimations, leading to a lack of shared understanding or insight into the tasks at hand. Differences in opinion about story point assignments are either ignored or superficially resolved.

Disconnection from Reality: The story points assigned do not reflect the actual effort or complexity of tasks. They become meaningless numbers that don’t help in forecasting or reflecting on the team’s capacity and velocity.

Ritualistic Ceremonies: Estimation meetings are held because they are part of the process, not because they are seen as valuable. The team goes through the motions without engagement, resulting in estimates that don’t improve planning or execution.

Lack of Improvement: Despite using story points and holding estimation meetings, the team does not learn from past sprints to improve their estimation accuracy or the way they tackle tasks. The process does not evolve or adapt based on retrospective insights or changing team dynamics.

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