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Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Sudoku Sizing of User Stories

Posted by kenhoward on March 27, 2009

sudokuA common practice in sizing up User Stories is to assign shirt sizes: xs, s, m,l, xl, xxl.  This practice allows you to quickly assign an instinctive gut feel of the size of a User Story, which helps when performing a fit check of candidate stories for a Sprint.

I’m working with a client that found an approach I like better: Sudoku Sizing.   They tag each User Story with one of the following labels:

  • Gentle
  • Easy
  • Intermediate
  • Hard
  • Diabolical

The difference in verbiage may seem discrete, however, there can be a big difference in how the label is perceived.    While shirt sizes can be interpreted as depicting a quanity of requirements embedded within the User Story, the Sukoku label is often clearly understood as  the size of the effort required, which is what you’re really after.

By assigning Sudoku labels to user stories, team members may find it easier to all get on the same page with regard to what each label translates to in terms of effort.

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4 Responses to “Sudoku Sizing of User Stories”

  1. Ken – I like it! You’re right, there is a definite difference between size (often perceived as length of time, etc) and level of effort (which can encompass size plus other complexities). Thanks!

  2. Chris Tullier said

    I like the idea. Do you end up translating these descriptions into numbers that can be summed and plugged into a burn down chart to show team velocity?

  3. kenhoward said

    Nope, we use Sudoku sizing for a “fit check” only, then we use hourly estimates for the tasks that support each user story. These are used on the Sprint burndown chart.

  4. D said

    So how do you calculate Velocity?

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