Estimation and planning is an essential part of development, even for agile projects. We have all seen lots of worthless plans, that many in fact that we are tempted to throw planning out altogether. Estimation does not need to be boring, it does not need to be that inaccurate. It can actually be kind of fun...
In his excellent book Agile Estimating and Planning Mike Cohn discusses the philosophy of agile estimating and planning and shows you how to get the job done.
In this post I will mention Planning Poker (coined by James Grenning - Planning Poker) as a simple but very effective technique. The rules are few and simple:
- Each team member gets a deck of estimation cards.
- The product owner presents one user story at a time.
- The product owner answers any questions the team might have.
- Each team member selects a card representing his estimate.
- When everybody is ready with an estimate, all cards are presented simultaneously.
- If estimates differ, the high and low estimators defend their estimates.
- The group briefly debates the arguments (time boxed).
- A new round of estimation is made.
- Continue until consensus has been reached.
I have used Planning poker for sprint planning in scrum teams - but also in release planning when management required long term planning 6-9 months ahead. Using planning poker we had enough accuracy and did not use lots of time trying to detail tasks up front that nobody knew much about - and that perhaps would be replaced by more important stuff before being implemented.
So what you need is some planning poker cards to get started doing estimation the agile way. Contact Ative and get a deck of cards.
A full deck of Ative card is 13 cards spanning from 0 to 100 and 2 special cards:
"?" = "I have absolutely no idea at all" (to many of these played tells us that the user story most likely is not ready for the current sprint)
"Coffee" = "I need a short break. I'm too tired to think"