Planning Poker - The Original Paper

Back in 2002, in American Fork, UT, James was facilitating and XP planning meeting. The meeting stalled with the two most senior people volleying the ideas back an forth, while the others got a virtual nap. As a engineer (and consultant), James had a problem to solve. Get the meeting on track. Planning poker was born.

Download the paper.

Author's note

There are many rumors about how Planning Poker started and the influence of Delphi method. I had forgotten Delphi by 2002 if I had ever know it. In those days standard equipment for an Object Mentor XP coaching gig meant having note cards. So, I had note cards. In hindsight, I think I have to thank my employer's efforts to teach us and use Total Quality Management for the insight to play the first game of Planning Poker.

In the 1980's at Teradyne, we were trying to apply TQM in engineering. One of the techniques used in brainstorming was silent grouping. First we'd all write our ideas on post-it notes, then we'd share them and group them. This way there was no polluting of each other's opinions when the most dominant or senior person spoke. I used that tool and planing poker just happened.

A lot has happened since planning poker was first played. It has become wildly popular. No there is a growing interest in No Estimates. I think estimation is still important in many development contexts. Planning Poker was way faster than other estimation techniques, but when I hear about days long planning poker meetings I cringe. I agree with the No Estimates people that that is a waste of time. Nicely though, there are faster ways to estimate that are about as accurate.

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Published: August 15, 2002