Thursday, November 13, 2008

Agile Planning Poker Rules

I posted earlier on planning poker, and since it's a popular post, I thought I'd post again on it.

One item that came up in a recent sprint retrospectives (in the "Where do We Need to Improve?" list) was getting better requirements and estimates. So, after the following planning meeting, where the CEO selected his highest priority items, the team met to review those items.

The meeting seemed to be another poor meeting of nothing definite or different being done - lot's of "Well, I'll need to look at that one more," or "Well, management says it needs to be done by next week, so what does it matter how long I think it will take?". I was ready to call the meeting until Martin asked about the planning poker cards (shwag from Phil Scott at the Agile Panel Discussion at the LA Code Camp). He hadn't used them before so we walked through the instructions:

  1. Each team member is given a set of cards.
  2. One person read the item to be estimated.
  3. The team & customer discuss the item.
  4. Each team member privately selects a card representing his/her relative estimate.
  5. After all have chosen a card, everyone shows the chosen card.
  6. If all estimates match, that item's estimate is complete.
  7. If estimates are not the same, the group discusses the differences (focusing on the outlying values).
  8. Repeat until consensus is reached.
Few notes on modifications we made to the rules -
  • We don't have any business members there, but call in the requester if needed.
  • We re-estimate until within one card value of each other, or take the median value if there's a majority.
The team really enjoyed, and benefited from the experience. The secrecy of each persons' pick not only made it fun for them, but it got each person so plugged into the task at hand. There was kidding of those who's estimates were way outside the norm. For outrageously low estimates, we rewarded the low-bidder's confidence by giving them that task, but with an agreement that if they met the estimate, we'd buy them lunch. It was particularly enjoyable to see how much this engaged Jeoff, our only team member with the strength Competition. There was great discussion on all the tasks the team had ahead of them, and we left the meeting with a lot more shared knowledge, both where we're weak and where we're strong.

You can buy planning poker card sets from Mike Cohn's Mountain Goat Software site.Technorati Tags: , , , ,

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