Story Bidding

I recently met a fellow Agile Coach. He had invented an elaborate way of bidding on tasks in a sprint as a way of matching what people wanted to do with what got assigned. It was Excel based and could find an optimal solution (more or less I guess) based on an algorithm. It worked really well for them.

That sounded really interesting!

However, I prefer to not have all tasks allocated after Sprint Planning since it makes self-organization and team yell much harder.

But I like the basic idea that you should try to match peoples preferences to what they are actually working on. And doing standard self-assign in a stand-up meeting might not fully solve this. Maybe not even over time as you get to know each other better. Some people might be doing things they are very bored by out of duty to the team and never even say something about it. If you are not keeping the priority from the Product Backlog when you create your Sprint Backlog this might be less of an issue because then people won’t be questioned in the same way when they pick lower priority things because they like to do them. But on the other hand, then you increase risk of missing Sprint Goals or risk delivering less important stuff in a Sprint if you don’t manage to get it all done.

I really like the idea of explicitly discussing our preferences in the team (and keep priorities from Product Backlog) so that we can do our best to let people work on things they prefer.

Here is a simplistic way of getting at least some of that info out without spending too much time or interfering with other parts of the process.

Story Bidding

  • In Sprint Planning each team member is allowed two votes
  • One vote is positive, one vote is negative
  • After the Sprint Backlog has been decided each team member mark their bids on stories.
  • In daily meeting it can be acceptable by the team that you are picking something that is not the highest priority thing you are capable of doing

Your marks could for example be small colored stick notes where team member put their initials. For example green for preferred things and red for things you’d rather don’t do. In general I think it is better to put votes on stories rather than on tasks. If tasks are maximum size of 1-2 days you should be ok with that. Putting bids on stories rather than tasks might also decrease the risk that some people are unable to do tasks (that they could otherwise easily learn). This risk is also a reason for not having too many votes.

Be careful though so this doesn’t completely override the priorities in the Sprint or the Sprint Goal. And also be careful so you don’t end up with too few people with knowledge in certain areas – try sticking with Collective Code Ownership and other agile ideas.

Used in a balanced way with help of common sense I think this really helps the team enjoy the work without loosing sight of what is most important to the business.

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