Wednesday 24 October 2007

Planning Poker

Planning Poker is an unsual method of estimating tasks that I came across and have tried it out on a few projects. It's a good way to get maximum accuracy from minimal effort and it sounded interesting enough to have a go.

Objective: to estimate time required to complete projects not yet started

Why Planning Poker works
  • It brings together multiple expert opinions to do the estimating. Because these experts form a cross-functional team from all disciplines on a project, they are better suited to the estimation task than anyone else.
  • A lively dialogue ensues during planning poker, and estimators are called upon by their peers to justify their estimates. This has been found to improve the accuracy of the estimate, especially on items with large amounts of uncertainty.
  • Studies have shown that averaging individual estimates leads to better results as do group discussions of estimates.
  • Planning poker works because it’s fun.

    How to play

    1. Each member of team is given a deck of 6 cards.
    Cards have the following values: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, Joker
    Numbers on the cards represent days.
    A Joker = more than 8 days (unknown)

    2. For each user story (see: Introduction to Scrum) to be estimated, the moderator reads the description. Any questions arising are then answered.

    3. After all questions are answered, each person privately selects a card representing their estimate. Cards are not shown until each estimator has made a selection. At that time, all cards are simultaneously turned over and shown so that all participants can see each estimate.

    4. If the estimates are close, a consensus is reached and players move to the next user story. If the estimates vary wildly, the team can discuss their reasons for their estimates. They are only allowed 2 minutes to do this and then a new round is played and cards are put on the table again. This time limit is absolute. No exceptions.

    This continues until a consensus is reached.

    More information

    You can now play planning poker online for free. Try it out at

    The orginal idea came from Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn

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