Games for Learning - Paint the Story Point

Photo by Andrea Passoni

Photo by Andrea Passoni

Relative sizing is a common agile practice—and often misunderstood. I facilitated a short workshop for team that was confused about story point estimation and velocity and used a game to illustrate how they work.

The game materials are simple—flip chart paper and markers. I love games that don’t require special equipment!

The game is paint the story point. It’s an easy game to lead, and the team had fun playing it. The game allowed us to talk about how story points can be used to indicate relative size, track velocity, and forecast completion. We met our learning objectives. What was really cool were the unexpected learnings:

  • One team member commented that relative sizing their backlog items can be challenging because the requirements are unclear—it’s like not being able to tell if a shape is a square or a star. In our discussion, the team realized that defining acceptance criteria better would help them.
  • For the activity, the team worked in two different groups, which brought up discussion about comparing teams based on velocity. We talked about the downsides of doing so and the troubles that come from comparing teams.
  • The team brought up that they have many dependencies on another team in their project, which impacts their velocity. We compared it to sharing markers across the two groups, and they recognized that they could explore how to better collaborate with the other team.

Thanks to my colleague Nirmal for suggesting this game to me. And a tip from him if you’re going to play it: be careful not to provide thick markers to the team because they’ll color the shapes too quickly.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.