The Planning PokerMuhammad Zeeshan Ali, PMP, PMI-ACP
The key to successful management of a project starts with getting effective estimates from the team who will be working on the assignment. I have discussed the importance of Story Points in my articles “The Story Points” and “Story Estimation”.
One of the reasons I am always a big fan of Agile Methodologies is because it is not just flexible but also due to its realistic nature. “Planning Poker” is one of the most popular and effective estimation tools and is also my favorite one. Traditionally “Planning Poker” was conducted using cards but with so many online tools, it is now mostly conducted by teams online. Also, the online version is much more feasible for the remotely working teams.
The thing that I like most about “Planning Poker” is that almost all or a major proportion of the team is participating in this activity. The dynamics of this activity are such that it brings out the best from the resource and allows the resource to express their point of view. As the Story Points are anonymously awarded before they are exposed to all the participants, therefore, the resources are shielded from the “Halo Effect”.
Once the awarded points awarded, by each participant, is revealed, the outliers are then invited to share their point of view and thoughts behind awarding these points. I have observed that resources, especially at the junior level, are reluctant to share their thoughts in the public. What this exercise does is that it brings out the thoughts and as a result, the element of innovation is explored. Also, this makes all participants concentrate and take interest in estimation as they are aware that any of them could be outliers.
Another thing that I have noticed is that there are a lot of questions, in different dimensions, during this activity. I have seen a junior resource who was an outlier, by some reasonable margin from others, subsequently managed to convince all other participants regarding his point of view.
Another important aspect is that since all estimates are based on the mutual consent of all the participants so the risk level is at the minimum possible level. Also, the team works as a combined unit in order to ensure that the agreed timelines are fulfilled.