Paint the Story Point: Agile Estimation Technique Unveiled
There are many practices that can help with agile estimation. A common one used, particularly by Scrum Teams, is Story Points yet this practice is very often misused or misunderstood.
The “Paint the Story Point” exercise can not only be a great, fun energizer but also illustrates what Story Points is trying to achieve and helps avoid the dark side of its misuse and application. Additionally, it demonstrates that velocity is a result used for forecasting – and nothing else.
So, we thought it would be good to offer a virtual format version – a free mural template.
Useful Background on Story Points
Story Points origin is from Extreme Programme “Ideal Days”, see Ron Jeffries’s blog Story Points Revisited – and represents an unknown amount of time. It was created to help protect developers from being bullied with time estimates by managers. Yet Story Points can be difficult to understand for those who are new to the concept of comparing two items to each other in relation to their complexity, uncertainty, and risk, to determine the delivery effort.
Yet none of this determines the amount of time it takes. Once you bring in velocity, the number of completed Story Points over a period of time, it can bring further confusion or obsession. All the good intentions backfire and the focus is on velocity and the number of story points you can complete.
- 15 minutes – estimation
- 35 minutes – complete painting
- 10 minutes – debrief
You’ll need the ability to create virtual breakout rooms to run this exercise virtually!
- The facilitator split the group into equal teams of around 4-5 people and allocate them a breakout room, and a team Colour.
- The facilitator confirms all team members can locate their associated colour team area with the different shapes for them to colour.
- The facilitator places teams into their team breakout rooms and gives them 1-2 minutes to provide initial estimates of how much time it will take for the entire team to complete the colouring of all the shapes as per the Definition of Done. They capture the “number of minutes” in the results table under Iteration 1 and the respective marked column.
Definition of Done
- Shapes to be filled in the same colour
- The shape is painted without any white bits
- Clean shapes – Do not go over the shape (black) outlines
- The facilitator explains how to estimate shapes in relation to each other using the Fibonacci sequence
- The facilitator places teams back into breakout rooms and gives another 1-2 minutes for each team to estimate all shapes in relative story points. Sum up the total estimated story points for all the shapes and capture this in the “Sum of all Story Points” column in the results table under Iteration 1. Teams are allowed to capture the estimates on the side of the shapes if this helps them sum up, but not inside.
- The facilitator explains that the team will be working in iterations of 1 minute and the goal is to colour as many figures as possible. The facilitator runs 1-minute iterations by placing them in a break room for 1 minute. At the end of the iteration, the facilitator only accepts painted shapes that are in line with the Definition of Done.
- The facilitator may need to show how to use the Draw function in Mural and choose the relevant pen (3rd largest works well) and colour. Ideally, everyone should click “Done Drawing”, the top right button of the mural, at the end of the iteration.
- Step 1. The facilitator runs the first iteration and accepts only ideally painted figures. At the end of the minute, the facilitator asks each team their velocity based only on the accepted work and notes it on the results table for the relevant iteration under the “Velocity” column.
- Step 2. The facilitator gives 3 minutes, sending them to breakout rooms, to plan the next iteration and introduces a new rule, bigger figures can be split into smaller parts and can be delivered incrementally, however the fragments should be re-estimated in story points and the initial estimate on the big figure should be disregarded.
- Step 3. Teams should inform the facilitator of the new remaining story points and update the result table of the new “Sum of all Story Points”. And update time-to-complete (“Number of Minutes”) by dividing the remaining story points by the last velocity and comparing with the initial estimate
- Step 4. Teams have another iteration (1 minute) to continue painting. The facilitator observes what is going on and makes notes of any observations made.
- Repeat steps 1-4 until the teams have coloured all shapes or the facilitator feels the learnings have been obtained
Discuss any learning points or observations made during the exercise
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