[From the Archives] Affinity Estimating

I‘ve been blogging about Scrum and Agile software development since 2005, and you can find my older work on my personal website. Some of the material has proven to be very popular over the years. So, in an effort to share this the material with a wider audience I’ve decided to start a series featuring the best of my material. Let me know in the comments if you find this interesting or useful.

Update: Since writing this post, I’ve become aware of two other descriptions of Affinity Estimating. Jukka Lindström posted his experiences on ScrumDevelopment, and Chris Sterling has written a great Step-by-step description.

The last session that I’d like to report on is Lowell’s Affinity Estimating. Affinity Estimating is a technique many teams use to quickly and easily estimate (in Story Points) a large number of user stories. This is a great technique if you’re just starting a project and have a backlog that hasn’t been estimated yet.

We started by reading out each Story to the entire team. Lowell then asked us to arrange the stories horizontally on a wall in order of size, without talking. We placed the largest stories on the left and the smallest stories on the right. This only took a few minutes. We were then given a final opportunity to make adjustments to the ordering, again without talking.

Lowell then placed some numbers above the list of stories. In our case, he used the Fibonacci numbers as described by Mike Cohn in “Agile Estimating and Planning“. He asked us to group the user stories around the nearest number. After only a few minutes, our team had estimated about 30 User Stories.

I loved this estimating technique for a number of reasons: It’s quick and easy; it feels very natural; and, the entire decision making process is made very visible. Finally, Affinity Estimating helps make estimating a positive experience rather than a confrontational one. The next time you have a need to estimate a large number of User Stories, consider trying Affinity Estimating.

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