Planning poker!

Planning poker is a method used to assign time estimations to projects. In groups of 4 we were given a list of activities involving a primary school teacher attempting to teach students about programmable robots. Each activity described how the teacher would attempt to teach the children about programming the robot and the tasks the children would carry out e.g. construction of the robotic base. We were each allocated a set of cards with various numbers written on them. As a group we clarified that the numbers would represent hours. We went through the list of activities carefully and after reading each one we would silently and separately decide how long we felt it would take for the teacher to teach the theory or how long it would take for the children to carry out each activity. We put our card with our choice of time face down on the table when we had come to a decision. When everyone had individually chosen a card we turned them over at the same time and discussed our choice of time.

This exercise forced members to justify their choice of time. In some instances members may have had very high or very low numbers compared to others. We had to explain our reasons for believing a specific activity would take longer than others or perhaps why we felt that children would pick it up quickly and required far less time. It forced us to tease out the activities and realise that certain projects have different conditions to others. For example, in this exercise, we were dealing with children. It was important to bear in mind that the learning capacity of children was a major factor with regards to time. A teacher could not possibly spend a week and a half on one particular exercise as interest would more than likely be lost. Initially we had a slight problem with regards to understanding what the numbers on the card represented. Some understood it to be an hour whereas others understood it to mean a full school day. This bump occurred early on and was easily rectified although it did demonstrate the need for clarification amongst groups. Planning poker allowed us to do more than plan a timeline. As we were forced to justify our reasons it meant we broke the project down and understood it better. Where there was dispute, it was discussed and provided interesting insight that usually led to consensus.