Saloua and the story point: it’s complicated…

Have you ever changed your Facebook relationship status to “it’s complicated?” Well, I – Saloua – did. And after many years of hard work, counseling and perseverance, it’s still complicated. No folks, not my marriage! Me and the story point..

itsA story point is an arbitrary measure used by squads that reflects the complexity and “needed effort to finish” a story. A story point is a relative measure. Science says humans are far better at estimating things relative to each other than in absolute measure. If I would ask you to estimate who weighs more, you or the person sitting closest to you at this very moment, I assume that wouldn’t be too hard. Right? But how many kilos does your neighbor weights? That is far more difficult to get right! Based on this principle, it should be easier for a squad to estimate complexity of a user story relative to another user story. All stories in the backlog with be estimated relative to a reference story. the reference story is selected by the team being a well known simple item on he backlog. Well, this theory and I really believe in it, I’ve seen it working it’s magic. However, in practice, I sometimes find myself fighting temptations to estimate the story point based on absolute measures such as hours. It’s complicated!

4 reasons why it’s worth to stick to your story point and forget about hours:

  1. It is a more accurate method to estimate for us human beings; it is our natural tendency
  2. It drastically reduces time needed for planning sessions. No more endless meetings to estimate each single activity to the nitty gritty details
  3. It improves squad performance as the complexity of the whole story is considered instead of individuals estimating on the parts that are in their expertise area only (which will always give a fragmented picture of the story).
  4. It makes the increases in velocity visible. Hours will be hours and thus will not evolve, while relative estimation can reveal the learning of the squad. What is considered as very complex in sprint 1, can be less complex in sprint 6. What that shows? The improved performance of the squad!

After many sleepless nights and terrible planning sessions, the story point and I found out that the only way  to make our complex relationship work, is discipline. We clench to the theory with your teeth and fight for it. Because when we do, it pays off. But it took time. And still does. and Sometimes we need a push on the back to keep on. That’s ok, that’s the whole point of agile working; continuous learning. It is like all relationships folks, you need to work on it to keep it on.

I’m very curious to hear your relationship highs and lows with the story point, care to share?

Cheers, Saloua

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4 thoughts on “Saloua and the story point: it’s complicated…

  1. Read the scrum guide (one of the only 2 interesting reads on the internet, the other being !

    There is not such a thing as a story point. During sprint planning the team decides what user stories they will and can do in the coming sprint. I know some teams start the planning by deciding how much points they are going to do; why? Just pick stories you think you can do and do not add points and arithmetic by adding and subtracting; that is all distracting 😉

    It’s worth to stick to stories and forget about story points and hours.


    1. Hahaha Fred…this is an ongoing discussion we have been having for years and we will have for years to come…i still believe in the value of the story point to help you deliver stories.
      To be continued…

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