Agile Planning Poker

Since starting SalesLoft, I’ve had the enjoyment of learning agile development. Agile for us means we run weekly or bi-weekly sprint sessions forecasting and planning our development efforts along with daily 10 minute scrum meetings.

Just last week, we adopted a method of sprint planning called agile poker (wiki page). Agile poker is a consensus-based technique for estimating development productivity. I had a blast during our first session. Here’s how it works:

  1. The product owner fills out the backlog with user stories, prioritizing each one.
  2. The development team gets a deck of playing cards numbered by the fibbonaci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc). These numbers represent allotments of time allocation for the sprint.
  3. The product manager provides a short overview of the first story. The team then determines who is going to manage the project and discusses the details.
  4. Next, each individual lays a card face down with the number of allocation units they think necessary to complete the story.
  5. Everyone turns over their cards and the team comes to consensus on a number.
  6. We attach that number to the user story and repeat until everyone’s sprint allotments are full.

This is a great method for running dev sprints because the time allocation is crowd-sourced and avoids influence of others, forcing people to think independently. Using this method provides checks and balances to the dev sprint and ensures a better estimate for the time it takes to get product built.

Have any of you tried planning poker? What did you like/not like about it?

  1. We’ve always struggled to implement this level of detail in Agile due to the overhead of maintaining the program itself. Each piece of meta-data assigned to an task carries a weight. I’ll be interested to hear if you keep up the high-end Agile process, or if you end up scaling back to a simpler version. Every team probably has a different balance on that.

    1. It’s funny you bring this up because earlier today I was talking with the team and we asked each-other the same question. We’ve got one scheduled tomorrow so I should know more then :) I hope we keep it up; I think it’s powerful. 

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