Getting to the point

Many of you in the tech space are likely familiar with “pointing meetings” or “planning poker” or “sprint planning”. Without getting in too deep, the general idea is to have the members of a team close to a piece of work to be done and collectively estimate or forecast how much effort is involved. Whether you should do this at all is a reasonable question, but for the sake of the argument, let’s say that you will, and that the goal of your meeting is to have some idea of what you should plan to do over the next couple of weeks to have a reasonable shot of completing it all.

How much of your team’s time is this worth?

How much of your team’s time is a single item on this list worth?

How much of your team’s time is a single item on this list worth when everyone’s pretty close in their guess of how much effort it will take?

Across teams, clients, and ecosystems, I’ve repeatedly run into this pattern:

  • a unit of work, ticket, story, card, etc. is reasonably well-defined and not obviously going to explode
  • everyone on the team votes for one of two adjacent point values: a mix of just 1’s and 2’s, for example, or of just 2’s and 3’s.
  • the team spends the next ten minutes deciding which of those two options to go with.

Does that sound familiar?

Does that sound like the way your team wants to spend their time?

If this rhymes with your experience–a suggestion.

Tactically: if you’ve got a pointing meeting or voting meeting like this one, and the outcome isn’t enormously consequential, and all the votes are for adjacent point values like in the examples above, prompt your team for whether anything is clearly on fire about the work unit that requires extensive discussion. If it does, you’re not going to get a good forecast, and you should plan accordingly. If not, just choose the bigger point value and move on with your life. Done.

Thematically: where else in your processes and rituals are you having extended discussions around things that ultimately won’t have a large impact? They might not be zero, but your time and effort is better spent elsewhere. How can you cut down on that expenditure so you can focus on the things that matter?

Did that make your day a little better?

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