Confession... I Cheated During Planning Poker

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Confession... I Cheated During Planning Poker

Can you read the table to go along with what everyone else picked during planning poker? Is that even a good idea?

· Agile Zone ·
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Image titleSprint Grooming or Planning Poker sessions can get to be quite involved at times. There is a lot to take in with hearing the Product Owner talk about the first of several user stories in the backlog - all ready to be groomed. Not only do you have to focus on the success criteria of the story, but you have to somewhat-solution the approach in order to accurately score the story. Like I said, the process can get to be quite involved.

So What Do You Do?

This might not happen during the first story, or even the second or even the third; but, as the stories continue to be announced, your brain can sometimes become a little full. Are you still listening to the current story or are you still thinking about the last story? Sometimes, these stories start to all sound alike. It's getting close to lunch time too and you begin to wonder what sounds good for lunch today.

Oh no! The Product Owner has stopped talking and now the Scrum Master is asking if there are any questions. How long ago did you stop listening? Well, there was the whole lunch thing, then maybe you got sidetracked by a chat message or email that arrived unexpectedly. Oh no! You are a bit lost now.

No questions. Scrum Master is saying it is time to vote. What do you do?

Here's an idea, cheat!

Take a quick scan of the rest of the team and see if you can figure out which cards they are looking to pull. Looks like the developer to your left is going for his 3 card. You both tend to score around the same points, so that's it, you are going with a three.

Did It Pay Off?

Everyone presents their cards. Just like you, the developer next to you scored a three. Here's the problem, everyone else scored a five. What makes it worse, the Scrum Master is asking you why you scored a three. What do you say? How do you handle this?

While this isn't a real example that happened to me, I was the Scrum Master when this happened. I had a feel that the developer wasn't listening and I wondered if he was going to simply guess at a score or lean on developer to his left.

When I asked him why he scored a three, there was a really long "Uhhhhhhhhh." Rather than the situation more awkward, I went ahead and asked the developer he copied his score from just seconds before. Interestingly, the developer with the three score had valid reasons behind his estimate. Those who scored a five actually agreed to lower their scores and the story under review was noted as a three.


Cheating during Sprint Grooming is never a good idea. In fact, of all the meetings within an agile team, the grooming session is probably the most important. When I talked to the developer who cheated, I reminded him of the importance of this session. I also told him that I would be writing an article about this some day, which has officially arrived.

In the end, we didn't have that problem again, but it's a great story to tell.

Have a really great day!

agile, devlife, planning poker, user stories

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