Friday, August 12, 2011

Alternatives to Planning Poker

This blog post is inspired by a tweet I saw:


The best thing about planning poker, and in my opinion the one thing that it brings to the table that no other system does, is the escape it offers from herd mentality. Planning Poker allows each member of the team to make his own opinion uninfluenced by others, and then allows the team as a whole to use Wisdom of Crowds to reach a good estimate.

The downside is that it is silly.

At least that’s how it looks from the outside. I mean, come on! A bunch of grownups spending precious hours of the work day, at the office, taking up a conference room while playing cards, until someone pulls a Joker (or whichever card signals the need for a coffee break)? I know the value of games and having fun at work, but I’m pretty sure that most adults are capable of enjoying good solid productive work without having to look goofy.

Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Discuss the PBI (Product Backlog Item) for a short while (2 minutes seems like a good average).
  2. Everyone takes a quiet moment to make a gut estimate. It doesn’t matter how it is made – relative (i.e. story points), absolute (ideal days) or rough (T-Shirt sizes), and writes it down.
  3. Alongside the estimate everybody lists the top reason (or few reasons, if you must – but that’s all!) he believes his estimate to be true. Examples could be:
    1. “We’ve done this before. Just extract and modify the ACME algorithm”
    2. “Nobody’s done it here before”
    3. “The data access layer is a mess. It will take a week to refactor”
    4. “Only George knows how to do it, and he’s off, snorkeling in Aruba…”.
    5. “A simple state machine and we’re done! I’m the state machine guru!”.
    6. “Haven’t got a clue. Just want to play it safe.”
  4. When everyone is done, merge the reasons, and decide on the best estimate.
  5. Rinse and repeat: If consensus is reached, repeat with the next item. Otherwise, repeat with the same.

Does it look familiar? It should. But shhhh! Don’t tell anyone. Let’s keep it our secret.

Oh, and you can call it team estimation. Now that’s a good, serious meaningful name, isn’t?

Now run along, have some fun (the good productive, serious kind, not the goofy kind).



  1. You're right, this alternative can be a little silly. But still, I can see it working like a charm if done by the right team.

  2. Maybe the people posting about online poker being rigged ought to read the first article. LMAO at those guys. Knowing them they may not get the context of the article. holdem poker online


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