Poker Face

by bishopofagile

The elders of the Agilist church at money.moo see all work in terms of points. Using this, decidedly broken, metric they base all timelines and deadlines on a team’s velocity. If you are unfamiliar with Agilism and have a functional brain there are some questions you should be asking around this point. Let me attempt to preempt you and answer them in the manner of our Agilistic overlords:

  • Q> What is “a point” worth exactly?
  • A> The value of points is different from team to team. A team needs to decide how much work is involved in a single point and multiply accordingly.
  • Q> So a team may suggest that a point is one developer day, and multiply up accordingly?
  • A> No! Never try to apply points to time periods! That is not the Agile way.
  • Q> So how are we supposed to value what a point is?
  • A> It doesn’t matter, as long as your team agrees. And as long as the work can be fitted into the already agreed time-frame.

Obviously this is a bullshit definition, and completely unworkable; but that is how we do it at money.moo.

So, once we’re all agreed on what one point is worth (however we’re supposed to do that), how do we ensure that Stories are assigned the correct number of points? The answer is…”Poker”! Well – that’s the Agilist name for what we do. Here’s how it works:

  1. The team book a meeting room and go there at the allotted time. The room is invariably occupied by some management bullshit group that takes precedence and so we wander around like brain-damaged chickens until we find a suitable alternative location in a corridor somewhere.
  2. The post-cards are applied to the wall, or the post-card emulator is fired up and projected on the wall by a laptop/projector combination.
  3. Each story that needs evaluating is described by the BA, who has already performed a rigorous and technically complete analysis of it.
  4. The technical people try to understand what the BA was thinking when they wrote the Story, what she actually meant by it, and then modify it in an attempt to make it feasible, by using technical skill.
  5. Once everyone is agreed on what the Story is actually about, the poker begins. All developers estimate a points score – but the score cannot be any old number; that would be ridiculous. The point score must be in the Fibonacci sequence! I’m not making this shit up.
  6. At an agreed time all developers display their suggested scores together. They may do this with fingers, numbers written on paper, or using special Agile Poker Cards that are given out as a booby prize to people who pay millions of dollars for Agile certification.
  7. The median score is applied to the Story.
  8. I’m not making this shit up.

Once all the stories have been allocated a point store, the BA and PM use their craftsman-like skills to plot a projected “Burn-up chart”, which demonstrates, scientifically, how long it will take to complete the stories. Obviously this doesn’t include the time it will take for QA to test the stories or the developers to fix the bugs found; but that’s fine because bugs have zero points and take no time!

After this, the solid scientific projection is presented to the CTO. The CTO looks at the total estimated time the project will take, realizes that it is twice as long as her already announced arbitrary deadline allows and asks the team to re-evaluate the points.

The team then waste invest another afternoon re-estimating the points with lower numbers.

This cycle continues until the CTO is happy that we can do the work in the arbitrarily allocated time-span, according to the scientifically proven Agilist burn-up chart.

Reality is irrelevant – it’s all about the points. If the points say it’s possible, then it can be done. So mote it be.