🚩Mind the red flags: is your story point planning working for you?

🚩Red flags in short and longterm planning

  • you never use high story point numbers in your estimations
  • not all competencies (product manager included) are represented on the estimation
  • different competencies provide their estimates independently
  • you are estimating one story at a time but without the context of other stories
  • you are discussing low-level implementation details code, database, etc.
  • you do not yet know how you will link the short term estimates to your sprint planning
  • you think that the time spent on one story estimate is too high
  • most of the stories in your sprint backlog share the same story point value
  • you estimate each idea only once before taking them into a sprint
  • need to know the exact solution before you are willing to estimate
  • “know” how many hours is one story point

Why are these red flags so common?

  • In sprint planning, we mostly deal with stories in Discovery and Delivery stages. And we want to know how much can we do in one sprint.
  • In short term planning, our stakeholders want to have some rough estimate of when they can expect the stories in the roadmap live.
  • In long term planning, we usually have pile stories in the Idea and Discovery stages. The product manager needs to figure out which of them to build first.

Why is this a problem?

Solution? Do not think of estimation as a single activity.

Long term planning

Story points from the Product manager’s perspective in the value/effort.

Sprint planning

How to do the actual story points estimation?

  • Have a regular formal estimation event not tied to the sprint backlog
  • Do it as a team and have every competency present
  • Use the reference table or visually order the stories on the canvas so you can see them in the context of the backlog
  • Estimate everything in the backlog, even rough ideas
  • Use all the SP values available
  • Review the estimation process after it and experiment with the setup

What sequence to use?

Key takeaways

  • There are different types and precisions of estimations. Before every estimation, think about the reason why you estimate.
  • Estimation is not a single point in the feature lifecycle.
  • Let your team estimate together from the beginning. Otherwise, you deprived yourself of the best solutions.
  • The question “If we start on this right now, is it going to be done by tomorrow evening?” is more powerful than you think.
  • Use story point estimation to distinguish what can go for delivery and what needs more grooming by developer/product designer, not only to estimate effort.

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