How can new teams quickly align to perform accurate user story estimation?

You ask ’em, I (try to) answer ‘em.

How can new teams quickly align to perform accurate user story estimation?
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Q: How can new teams quickly align to perform accurate user story estimation?

The Scenario: Your team at Big Wig Inc. has just finished a big project and is riding a high — after nearly a year of development, Project T-Rex has finally been released to your customers. Early feedback is phenomenal and the team can breathe a collective sigh of relief. After a few celebratory drinks, the focus inevitably begins to shift to “What’s next?

Step 1: Identify Historical Reference User Stories

Reference user stories are a great way to quickly align on a good enough estimate by comparing the story being estimated to work the team has completed in the past and asking “is this less than, equal to, or greater than the effort required to complete the reference story?” When forming a new team, the first step should be to identify what these reference user stories will be:

  • Alternative Method: Occasionally the product or technology being worked on is brand new and doesn’t align with any previous work the team has done. Perhaps the team members are new to the organization and there are literally no reference stories to draw from. If the team doesn’t have historical reference use stories to use, pick 10 new ones from the team’s backlog that they believe represent a wide range of effort and are the typical story sizes the team expects to encounter in a normal sprint (i.e. — don’t select outliers that are extremely large or small).

Step 2: Baseline the Reference User Stories

Write each of the selected reference user stories on a post-it and place them on a whiteboard. Draw a large 8-to-10 ft. horizontal line on across the board. On the left side, write “Less Effort” — on the right side, write More Effort”.

Baseline the Reference User Stories — Step #2a
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Baseline the Reference User Stories — Step #2b
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Baseline the Reference User Stories — Step #2c
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  • 2 story points: Story #4 & #9
  • 3 story points: Story #1 & #6
  • 5 story points: Story #7 & #8
  • 8 story points: Story #5 & #10

Technical Program Manager @ Medium | Agile Nerd

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