poker_planning_wall_2As I mentioned in other post here, one of the team I am working now had one interesting backlog with about 200 items (including bugs) without estimate. Today I will share my latest experience with “White Elephant sizing” or “Poker planning on the wall” as I presented to the team.

My goal as SM/Coach was estimate the full backlog and clean it up at the same time. To do that, divide the session in two:


  • First session of 15 min with some concepts about estimation, you could check my post about this here
  • The last session of 60 min we used to play. The original game is explained here. In my case  we used flip-chart sheets. In each sheet, we put some values from poker planning cards the team uses to estimate normally.

I added one rule for the PO:

  • “PO only have 30 sec (elevator speech) to explain any story.”

It seems a little bit hard, but the idea of this rule was help to clean-up the backlog, realize the information missed and estimate faster. I have to recognize that I was a little bit scary about it. At one moment I thought the team will put a lot of stories around 20, 40 and 100 points. It will lead to a new session of split of stories and grooming. Nothing of that happened and the team estimated all between 1/2 and 13 points.

Another challenger of the game is handle the conversation between team members, but the team handled it very well and I only push for a fast estimation one time because they start to talk a lot without any direction.

In resume the full team said that the meeting was a BIG success. Some accomplishments that before this session were impossible:

  • We reduce ~15% our backlog. Yes!! the PO was very happy he was able to delete around 20 stories..
  • Team was able to estimate the full backlog in 50 min. Before the team took around 60 min to estimate few stories using poker planning.
  • PO understood when the team need to use poker planning or poker planning on the wall
  • PO understood the importance of keep the backlog clean
  • PO got all the info from the team to start to put in place one plan to present to stakeholders and the full team.

To close this post, I want to share the final result in few photos:








Personally, I had a very good experience with this game and I am looking for new challengers in the team. Did you have experience with this game?  Do you want to share it with us? do you have another approach to one backlog without estimation?

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Omar Bermudez.

About the author

Omar is an agile practitioner and lover. Certified Scrum master. Agile Coach & Agile Leader. He believes it is important to continually be learning and growing. His dream is to be a lifelong learner; growing each day. He is also passionate about leadership development and seeing people reach their full potential. He is also a good husband & father (his wife says that time to times). He has a wonderful wife and 2 fantastic kids. In his free time, if he does not have any plan ahead, he tries to apply agile methodologies at the family level :). He enjoys a lot to travel with his family and discovers new places for them.