Here is an example: early in the morning of the second day of the Sprint (during the stand up) I go to the board and see that the story I worked the previous day (first day of Sprint) contains a big "1 IDEAL DAY" written on it (estimate). Right now (early in the second day of Sprint) the story is not completed and I guesstimate it will take half a "REAL DAY" to complete it.

Question: so to track progress and update the burndown right now, shouldn't I update that "1 IDEAL DAY" on the card with something else (recap.: original estimate in 1 ideal day, remaining work in 1/2 real day)? What would be that something else in this particular example?

  • It doesn't matter what you originally estimated a task. If you believe you need another half day for it, then update the burn down accordingly. Don't look back. Only look forward. Mar 6, 2013 at 16:34

2 Answers 2


When I am talking personal finances with my wife as we go over the checking account I don't start respond to her questions with numbers in Ocatal or Hexadecimal format. She started spouting figures in Decimal so I communicate Decimal back to her.

If you start your Scrum in IDEAL days then all discussions should revolve around IDEAL days. Don't even talk REAL days, because nobody will ever really know how to relate to that in comparison to IDEAL days.

You THINK it will take you 1/2 REAL days to finish the story, but then about 10am your breakfast doesn't agree with you and you can't leave the bathroom for 6 hours. Or some important client meeting comes up that you need to attend. This is why you chose IDEAL days in the first place.


In addition to what maple_shaft suggested about consistency and always using the same units in your estimates and measurements, I would also suggest not revising estimates unless you are also preserving the original estimate along with the actual time-to-completion (store three data points for each estimate instead of two).

When you want to improve your ability to estimate, having that original estimate and your actual time is useful when you begin to ask questions about why your estimate was incorrect and how you can improve future estimates. If you don't know your initial estimate in the future, you can't compare actual time to estimated time.

  • Thomas Owens, so by saying "not revising estimates" you actually mean "never update the burndown chart with half completed stories, only updated the burndown when your story has moved to the DONE swimlane in the whiteboard". Is that correct?
    – Pomario
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:34
  • 2
    @Pomario Yes. A story is either finished or it's not finished. There is no "I'm N hours into an M hour story" or "I'm X% done with a story." You have either finished the story according to your definition of done, or you haven't. When you are done, you record the number of hours that it took to complete the story.
    – Thomas Owens
    Aug 31, 2011 at 15:45

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