Predictability and The Gold Standard

I am often asked as an Agile Coach when I know that I have been effective at my job. The answer is simple- my work as a coach is done when the team in question is capable of being predictable.

And what, you may ask is predictable? For me it is a team that is capable of consistently delivering 90% or greater of points that have been planned for an iteration. I have given this capability a name. I call it the Gold Standard.

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Wideband Delphi and How I Re-Discovered It

While on my way to researching something else I can across an interesting blog entry on Atwood’s coding horror site about Planning Poker. Over the years I have been a scrum master I have evolved a pretty effective way of getting relative story sizes as quickly and accurately as possible. I do this rapid release planning by having the team choose t-shirt size stories as yardsticks and then having them use these sizes to size new stories. This in itself is not unique, but what I ended up doing to further streamline the process is to give the team members a spreadsheet and have them fill this out on their own and send to me.

It works very well.It keeps team members from getting “bullied” by outspoken teammates. We find that there is really a great deal of agreement for the size of stories (80-90%) and we save a great deal of time that would be spent in a meeting discussing a bunch of stories we already agree on. Not only do we save time but we gain accuracy by tapping into the wisdom of crowds. Those stories where we don’t have good agreement (high Standard Deviation) we can discuss until we agree. So I thought I came up with a new way of doing story pointing. While that still may be technically true, after stumbling upon Jeff Atwood’s blog, I realized that what I really did was to re-discover Wideband Delphi and apply it to Agile instead of waterfall. It goes to show that everything old is new again.