Is Planning Poker Bad for Software Development Teams?



  • We have a project manager that is adamant about planning poker. I have found that this adds stress to everyone on the team, and the times are always wrong. We have different skill levels on the team and expected to complete a task within the given time period. We estimate as a team and then take the average. I find that this adds stress to the team, and decreases motivation/morale.

    How can we address this situation?



  • Is Planning Poker Bad for Software Development Teams?

    This is the wrong question to ask. Planning poker is a tool. Asking if planning poker is bad for software development teams is like asking if a screwdriver is bad for plumbers. If the tool fits the job then it's a good tool, if not, then it's not.

    The real question you should be asking yourself is:

    Why is my project manager so adamant about planning poker?

    You don't add any extra context to be able to answer this but I'm thinking at two immediate reasons:

    • they are a traditional project manager who lives and dies by schedules and deadlines. I can see that in your comments where you mention that the deadline is at the end of the sprint which is usually 3 weeks. A sprint end is not a deadline. Story points and sprints were mentioned in the comments so I'm thinking you are doing some sort of Agile? Let me tell it straight: you are not. The fact that everyone is stressed is another indicator that you are not. Another is that you estimate in hours and if something comes up as one day then you have one day to do it.
    • (as the logical continuation of the previous point) your project manager can't put pressure on the team when you use story points in the same way they can put pressure on the team if you use hours. So they prefer hours. If you estimate something at one day, they will put pressure on you to do it in one day. They want a commitment. And it doesn't matter if a senior is doing the job or a junior. You said one day, you better make it happen in one day. At this point, I think this image is should be mentioned:

    enter image description here

    An estimate is an approximation. The fact that you provide estimates as 3.75 hours (as you mention in your comment) means that you are ignoring this fact, you or maybe your project manager.

    I suggest you read the following posts for hours vs story point estimation and why planning poker is a good tool for many teams:

    Another thing to add is that planning poker is a consensus-based estimation techniques. That means that when you get vastly different estimates, the team members discuss it until they reach a number that they all agree with. They don't just estimate as a team and then take the average. An average completely destroys the discussion that needs to take place in order to reach consensus and also destroys the spread of the different estimations people provided. If a senior says 1 day, and a junior says 5 days, getting back (5 + 1) /2 = 3 days is not a good estimate because the senior will finish early while the junior will probably be late. Then what happens if the junior works on the task? The project manager will pressure them to finish the work in 3 days even though they thought it will take 5 (and that was probably wrong too and most likely they will finish in 7 days).

    Planning poker is a tool. Story points are tools. Your project manager should probably learn what these tools are all about before insisting on estimating in hours and keeping people accountable for estimates that look forced from what you are describing.



Suggested Topics

  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2
  • 2