Wordcount Based Sizing

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A card with twenty lines of text in the description and a size of one?


A few weeks back we were grooming the upcoming backlog in one of my projects when a card came up on the projector. Immediately I noticed that there were four large, dense blocks of text in the description; and that was BEFORE the acceptance criteria! This was an amazingly complex, rich story. Then the dev’s awarded it a single story point. Huh? That didn’t make any sense but it got me to thinking…

I went straight to my office after the meeting and started digging around in our tracking tool, Rally. The first thing I did was to take several sprints worth of stories from several projects, 157 stories total, and dump them to Excel. From there I started to run some analysis on the word count of the description vs the size of the stories that the teams awarded to them. And I was amazed at the output. Check out this chart of the results.


Obviously the data is trending toward a strong correlation between the size of the description for any story and the sizes assigned to it by the team. Had I discovered an unknown, possibly time-saving practice? My vision was that we would have the teams simply do what they were already doing: write good stories. But instead of taking the time to laboriously review and poker our way into sizes, what if we relied on historical data to size them? I wasn’t sure, but decided to ask the team.

A sprint later we were at the next grooming session when I pulled out the chart above (I always like to rely on statistics and science wherever possible) and explained my theory to the team. I think they liked it because as I was explaining things there were a lot of grins around the table. Anyway, we started using this method and immediately saw progress. Not only did we save a couple of precious hours that would have been spent sizing, check out our velocity numbers over the past few sprints…


I think that this is a very workable process for easily increasing your team’s sprint velocity and efficiency. I hope to be presenting at a future scrum gathering on this topic after further research. Until then, take care and enjoy your web surfing on this first day of April.

Author Bio:
Lee Allison
Author: Lee AllisonWebsite: http://www.allisonagile.com
Agile Coach
Lee is an experienced Agilist and IT professional who loves the people-centric nature of Agile practices. He and his awesome family live in Austin, TX where they watch the Cowboys, brew beer, laugh and wish the weather weren't so damn hot!