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  • Writer's pictureMariana Delgado

Poker Planning

Project planning is the second step when creating a project, once we have identified a need and determined that we will work on it, sitting down to write the plan will be the next big milestone to achieve our goals.

NASA has done several studies where it was found that the cost of an error in a project grows exponentially as the stages of the project progress. Correcting an error during the concept phases can cost us $1 relatively, while the same error during prototyping will cost us $10, in production that same change can cost us $10,000 or more, compromising the completion of the project. For this reason, having adequate project planning becomes highly relevant, because in this way we can mitigate risks that may lead us to divert resources.

Planning requires the identification of the project needs, its justification, the requirements it will have, and the milestones to be met. Then, the identification of the user requirements/stories is carried out. Prioritizing them is important to ensure that the deliverables and characteristics of greater value in the product are carried out first, but estimation is usually a difficult point when carrying out innovative projects since they have not been done before to know for sure what order must follow in priority.

A very fun and useful technique for estimating tasks is Planning Poker, which is based on the technique known as Delphi. Delphi consists of each team member estimating the difficulty, time, and/or priority of each backlog requirement.

Planning poker is a game-like technique that encourages teams to estimate the difficulty and priority of tasks/activities/stories. These estimates will be based on the inputs of the entire group as a consensus, which makes them more adequate and closer to reality than other methods.

Pre-session requirements.

  • Planning Poker deck or application that simulates the cards (each member must have a device to use the application).

  • A meeting room.

  • A moderator (usually the product owner)

  • Team members or experts who are deemed necessary.

How does it work?

  1. Explain the dynamics and rules of the game to those who have not done it before.

  2. Each member must have identical cards with the agreed numbering (Fibonacci or any other scale that the team chooses).

  3. The story should be read aloud.

  4. Questions of the story are answered.

  5. A time-space is given so that the participants can choose their card, individually and in private, according to what they are evaluating (priority, complexity, time, etc.) and put it facing down the table.

  6. Once everyone has selected their card or time has run out, cards are revealed at the same time.

  7. If all the cards match or are very close to each other, it is averaged to assign that value and the estimation is finished. The same procedure is repeated with the next item.

  8. If the cards are different, distant values are discussed. The people who gave the highest and lowest scores are invited to justify their decision.

  9. Once the points of view and reasons have been explained, a new estimate is made. The process should be repeated until a consensus is obtained.


  • Set up a pivot (a reference) at the beginning of the session, for example, a ball and sticks drawing would be a 1, while a watercolor landscape would be a 21. So a moderately detailed drawing could be an 8.

  • Set a time limit of 1 minute to make the estimate.

This tool is fun and very useful to obtain an estimate that is close to reality, it will also help the team to take ownership of the activities and to commit to carrying them out.

What has been your experience when planning and estimating activities? We want to read you!

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