How to be good at planning poker and story points?

Story Points are easier to understand and work with than most people think.

What are story points?
A Story point is a arbitrary measure used by Scrum teams. This is used to measure the effort required to implement a story. In simple terms its a number that tells the team how hard the story is. Hard could be related to complexity, Unknowns and effort.

So teams size on a piece of work. Is it a lot of work? Is it complicated? Is there uncertainty?

    So three elements:

  1. Complexity
  2. Unknowns / uncertainty
  3. Effort

  1. T-Shirt sizing ( Large, Medium, Small)
  2. Story Points (modified Fibonacci: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100)

Get going
Scrum Master / Team Lead: During a session where the work is discussed, talk about a user story.


  1. Development team
  2. Product Owner
  3. Scrum Master
  4. Poker cards
  5. User stories / Stickies with stories

Ask the developers to think (NOT to talk) about how complicated it is for a moment. Bring in Scrum Poker cards or get a set of yellow stickies. And write per sticky the Fibonacci sequence (1,2,3,5,8,13). Or small pieces of paper will do too.

Ask the developers to select a card (picking a number) and hold it to themselves. Now when all the people have picked one, ask the developer to open their cards at the same time.


What if I am not in the same room (collocated)?
Ideally you are. But if you aren’t, or working remotely for the day; use an online tool, like made by Agile guru’s and free up-to 10 people.

Voting tricks
There’s some very interesting psychological trick behind the voting with closed cards. The surprise is great, instead of people influencing each other. Some people have bigger ego’s than the others. By not influencing each other the outliers who are more junior – for example – learn a lot from their peers because it always results in a conversation about the work; which evens out problems, reduces unknown elements of that work and so on.

Tricks from an Agile Coach
Some people will always try to quantify a point or a S/M/L size of a User Story into days, hours. People have learned for decades that when they hear the word Effort, that it relates to period of time (hours, man days, weeks). If that’s the case, try to forget the amount of effort you think it takes to finish the work. Instead ask the people to vote for just the complexity.