Thursday, October 23, 2014

Preplanning Poker: Is This Story Even Possible?

The story says "attach an e-commerce server."

Well, maybe it says "As a product manager I want my system to incorporate an ecommerce server so that I can collect money."

Can you get that done this iteration? It sounds like a three-story-point effort to me, right?

Hold On A Second

This story doesn't have a plot. It is a state of being. I don't think that  saying "once upon a time there was a little girl" would qualify me as a story teller. 

Right away I'm nervous. What the heck does it mean? What do we want to do here? 

Let's not throw this into the sprint backlog with (of all things) a story point number on it. Let's certainly not stick somebody's name on it. Let's think a little. 

We're not aligned on what this "story" means. 

The New Preplanning Poker

You already know about planning poker, and the benefits of silently estimating first, then comparing results. You know that it helps avoid anchoring and arguing and lets you see the degree of separation in estimates in the team. It's a nice consensus-seeking idea. 

I think we need to apply that concept forward to pre-planning (and to non-estimating teams). We will need five cards for this new preplanning poker, as follows:
  • Defer 
  • Accept 
  • Reject 
  • Explore
  • Split
The astute among you might notice that the acronym for this set of cards accidentally spells DARES. I guess that's okay if we're trying to determine whether we dare tackle this feature as given.

All you really need is five index cards per person and a marker, but if you really want something you can cut and print, try these (font is bubblegum sans):

So here is the story. Pick one of the cards, don't show its face. Ready? One... two.. three

Your answers

You picked defer. Why is this not a good time to add this feature? Why is later better? Is there something far more important to do? Too few developers and testers available this week? Is it scheduling? Availability of people? Is there a dependency such that it would be very hard now, but another feature will soon finish after which this one is easy to complete? 

You picked accept. You think that this task is very well-defined and the criteria for success are obvious. You're ready to go, and you know how to do the work. I'm shocked, given the nature of the story but tell us what you know and what inspires your enthusiasm.

You picked reject. You don't think that the system needs an eCommerce system? Why? Do you have another way you'd rather we received money? Do you think this system should not receive money? Do you think that we should use this system in a way other than a money-gathering device? Why should we never do this? 

You picked explore. You think it's a good idea, and we should get involved, but you believe that there are technical issues involved that we don't understand. Is it platforms? Licensing? APIs? Languages? Authorization/Authentication issues? Architectural concerns? Dependencies? What do we need to know in order to move forward?  I think you are likely right - this may not be something you simply bolt on without some exploration of vendors and technologies and market segments. 

You picked split. That means that this story is not really scoped well. Maybe it needs to be rewritten as a series of stories, or a series of releases, so that each increment of this feature will be well-understood and can be tested and possibly documented. In this case, I agree with you. We might need to know who needs to pay, and for what, and what the flow is around each payment scenario. Each point of payment will likely need several stories to cover all the ways it can succeed or fail.

Will It Work?

I have played this game without cards at a few client sites. Sometimes I'm surprised at how vague a story can seem to me, but be perfectly clear to the local development team. Other times I'm surprised in the opposite way. 

We have had great story mapping and story splitting sessions result from these quick 5-way triage games (is that a quintage?) It takes only minutes and you can get a lot of focused discussion and backlog grooming done in a very short time. 

If you try it out, let me know how it worked for you.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. There are far more rogue casinos (casinos that cheat money) on the internet then the legitimate online casinos. If you accidentally sign-up and deposit your money into a rogue casino, most probably you will never have a chance with withdraw your money out from the casino. free spins

  9. Glad to chat your blog, I seem to be forward to more reliable articles and I think we all wish to thank so many good articles, blog to share with us. situs judi dominoqq

  10. If you are a newbie you can now train yourself to become an professional casino gambler from the comfort of your home. It's good not to feel the pressure from other players when you are experimenting with different strategies and gaining your basic gaming skills. Joy Casino

  11. The best strategy for winning at craps is to know about craps odds and to only place bets in the fields with the highest winning probabilities. Betting fields in which the house has a low edge include pass bets, come bets and place bets on 6 or 8. You can find craps odds and probability charts on the Internet for a more complete listing. kasyna online

  12. The object of the game is to get your team to the winning set. In this way the game can be won by your team and if you get a winning set you can be sure that you will win the game. Read me to know more about online sports betting.