Agile 4 ALL: Use GROOMING for more accurate EFFORT and CAPACITY planning

All teams can take advantage of Agile principles and practices to reap benefits. Even non-Agile teams can use work “Grooming” methods to achieve more accurate effort estimates and better team capacity planning.

WHAT is Grooming?

Grooming is a simple process to “groom” requirements (gardening term) from it’s initial ideas (seeds) into fully grown changes (plants / flowers) providing real business value (fruit). It involves the following stages:

  • First stage: Requirement is collaboratively discussed, validated, and ultimately evolved. Team asks questions to ensure they understand what the requirement entails and what impact it delivers.
  • Second stage: Requirement are estimated (e.g. # of days) by the entire team. If estimate is too large due to its size, it is split into smaller pieces reducing complexity and increasing estimate accuracy. If the estimate is too large due to ambiguity or lack of information, further information is acquired or a prototype is developed to remote the ambiguity and its related risk. In cases where the effort is greater then the benefit, often that requirement is cancelled or placed on hold (e.g. value may change in the future).
  • Third stage: Estimated requirements are used to plan out delivery dates based on existing team capacity. If the two don’t match, either requirements are reduced / removed or delivery date is moved (similar to capacity planning in other project management framework). Just imagine making a calendar with list of requirement that fit each week knowing your team can only deliver X days of work each week. This is far easier then doing timelines or hour-based estimates.
  • Forth stage: Estimate is evolved during the course of work until its deployment. They stop being theoretical and become real. Ongoing under-estimates or over-estimates alter team “velocity” used for capacity planning in the Third Stage above.


WHY is it used?

  • The collaborative process of grooming simply results in more accurate estimates.
  • The biggest benefit of collaborative estimation is team members learning from each other. In time, they not only estimate more accurately, they actually build better products knowing other team members perspectives and work complexity.
  • Better estimates will result in better capacity planning.


WHO should facilitate it?

Depending on your framework this process should best be led by a Team Leader or Project manager (led by Scrum Master in Agile frameworks).


Disclaimer: Obviously, benefits are more substantial and even cumulative if your team is actually using a complete Agile framework like Scrum or Scaled Agile (recommended). But whether your team is just experimenting, in process of transition, or simply trying to learn… I hope this article helps you on your way.


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