BBQ Sizing for Relative Story Estimates

I’m not a fan of story points.  Because they’re numbers, there is always the temptation to try and turn them into hours or days or fractions of a sprint.  Plus you frequently have to re-explain your scheme (Fibonacci?  Doubling?  Custom?).  T-shirt sizing is a little better, but what does “size” mean?  If it’s time, then you’ve baselined against hours or days.  Or is it effort?  Or riskiness?

When planning work, the questions usually boil down to “what can we get done quickly” and “what it going to take a while”.  Sprints are filled to capacity, but so are stomachs.  Instead of saying “we can produce 24 story points”, think instead of “we can cook 8 hot dogs, six burgers, two steaks and a rack of ribs”, or “we can only get one Freddy Flintstone rack of ribs done”.  In short, you’re not planning sprints anymore, you’re planning tailgate parties.

Estimate Meaning
Hot dog with mustard.png hot dog Cooks quickest on a grill, so something which can be finished quickly.
hamburger Takes a little longer to cook, but still pretty quick.
steak Longer, but so much more worth it than a hot dog.  You also have the option of “well done” or otherwise to indicate compromises may may you sick.
ribs Even longer, these require attention to detail so they don’t burn.
freddy Freddy Flintstone rack of ribs The longest cook time.  Depending on the team, this may be all you can do in a sprint.

When it comes time to plan a sprint, your work in progress is determined by how big your grill is.  Are you a small time, like about the size of a tailgate hibachi, or are you a larger high-performing team and your grill is huge, like the fireman’s barbecue?  Regardless, your work-in-progress is confined to the cook surface.  You can probably fit 3-4 hot dogs, or 2 burgers, in the space of one steak.  You can’t fit Freddy Flintstone ribs on a tailgate hibachi.  It’s all relative.