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Planning Poker

Planning Poker Definition

Planning Poker, also known as Scrum Poker, is an agile estimating and planning technique that utilizes consensus-based estimating to determine story points, effort, or the size of a user story, feature, or other pieces of work in software development.

Historical Context

Planning Poker finds its origins in the early 2000s. It was first defined and named by James Grenning in 2002 and later popularized by Mike Cohn in his book ‘Agile Estimating and Planning‘, where he described it as a method to ensure team-based estimation focused on consensus and broad participation. The technique was a response to traditional estimation methods that often failed to account for the inherent uncertainties in software development projects.

What is Planning Poker?

Planning Poker is a collaborative game Agile teams use to estimate tasks in software development projects accurately. The method involves all team members, typically in a Scrum setting, providing their estimates anonymously using cards, thus promoting open discussion and facilitating consensus. The technique avoids anchoring, where one team member’s estimate unduly influences the others, allowing for a more democratic and comprehensive estimation process.

Planning Poker emphasizes collaboration and consensus over individual judgments. When estimates differ widely, the team discusses the reasons behind the diverse figures and then repeats the estimation process until a consensus is reached.

As agile teams work in sprints, Planning Poker assists in sprint planning by helping to prioritize tasks and allocate resources effectively.

Planning Poker Examples

Estimating a User Story: An agile team gathers to evaluate the effort required for a new user story. Each member selects a card from their deck representing their estimate. When all cards are revealed, discrepancies are discussed, and the process is repeated until the team reaches an agreement.

Evaluating a Feature Enhancement: A software development team is trying to gauge the complexity of adding a new feature. Using Planning Poker, they collaboratively assess the intricacy and potential roadblocks, then provide their estimates in rounds until a shared understanding and consensus are established.

What is the Expected Output of a Planning Poker Meeting?

The primary outcome of a Planning Poker meeting is a consensus-based estimate for each user story or task being evaluated. This consensus ensures that all team members understand the effort and complexity involved, ensuring smoother execution during the sprint.

What is the Fibonacci Scale in Planning Poker?

The Fibonacci scale, often used in Planning Poker, is a series of numbers where each is the sum of the two preceding ones. It’s an efficient way to estimate work because it accommodates the inherent uncertainty in more extensive tasks. The further out the estimation, the less precision there is, hence the growing gaps between the numbers in the sequence.

However, some teams might also use other scales, such as linear or exponential ones. The Fibonacci scale is favored because as the estimates get more prominent, the precision decreases, reflecting the inherent uncertainty in estimating more significant items.

Variations and Alternatives to Planning Poker

While Planning Poker remains a preferred method among many agile teams, there are other approaches that have gained traction. For example, Affinity Estimating sees teams grouping items based on their similarities in effort, allowing for quicker broad-stroke estimates. T-Shirt Size Estimating is another method, where tasks are categorized as XS, S, M, L, or XL based on their perceived size and complexity. Each team may find a different technique more attuned to its unique dynamics and challenges.

In Conclusion

Planning Poker is valuable in the agile practitioner’s toolkit, emphasizing collaborative estimation and promoting a shared understanding of tasks among team members. Planning Poker ensures more accurate and effective sprint planning by using structured scales, like the Fibonacci sequence, and encouraging open dialogue.

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