Agile Estimation Technique: Planning Cards

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🔥 Update: The product sold out!

Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions™ has Planning Cards as a tool to help agile teams estimate work. Excerpts of the information and instructions—which are included with each deck of the cards—follow. This article is for those interested in getting an overview.


About These Planning Cards

  • These cards are used to help estimate work
  • Each deck contains four sets of cards—enough for four estimators
  • Each of the four sets has a unique color on the front side of cards—it’s in either blue, green, orange, or yellow
  • Cards are based on the Fibonacci sequence, where every number after the first two is the sum of the two preceding numbers
  • Each set includes cards with the following values: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, and "?"
  • Each deck comes in a storage case



These cards and instructions support the most popular approach to estimating work in Scrum projects—estimating the complexity of work via story points.

The Development Team—which may be comprised of business analysts, coders, testers, etc.—collaboratively estimates each item in the product backlog in story points. Story points are a relative measure of complexity.



  • Product Owner
  • Development Team
  • Scrum Master (facilitator/observer)



  • Once or twice per sprint



  • One hour for each week of the sprint
  • It’s a common practice to limit each meeting to one hour and have multiple meetings as appropriate



  • Product backlog containing user stories, bugs, and other requirements
  • One set of planning cards for each member of the Development Team


Suggested Steps

1. If each member of the Development Team does not already have their own set of planning cards, the Scrum Master provides materials as needed

2. The Product Owner describes an item (a user story, bug, or other requirement) from the product backlog and mentions its intent and business value

3. Each member of the Development Team silently picks a card best representing their assessment of the complexity of the work and places the card face-down

4. After all of the Development Team members have made their selections, the cards are turned face-up, and the values are read aloud

5. If all of the selections have the same value, the Product Owner records it as the estimate, and that completes the exercise for the item; otherwise, proceed to the next step

6. Team member(s) who gave an outlier value —such as someone who gave a high value and/or someone who gave a low value—explain their reasoning

7. After a brief discussion, the team may take the most common value (the mode average) as the estimate or they may play another round of this planning game (steps 3-7)

8. Steps 2-7 are repeated until each item in the product backlog has been estimated

9. The Product Owner updates the product backlog with the estimate values



Some organizations use a subset of the cards and slice product backlog items when the estimate is "too large." Here's an example:

  • Development Team uses cards with the following values: 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and 21
  • Predetermined that 21 is "too large"
  • If a product backlog item is estimated at 21, it is sliced into two or more parts in collaboration with the Product Owner, and the resulting smaller items are estimated by the Development Team

This article provided a quick overview of an aspect of estimation in agile projects. Further details—including more information on the Fibonacci sequence, and additional options—are provided in the book, Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions. Agile Scrum is available in paperback and ebook formats at Amazon. For additional information, visit


About Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions


A fantastic agile transformation experience and result with a client organization in the entertainment industry was the inspiration for Scott M. Graffius’s multi award-winning book,
Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions (ISBN-13: 978-1533370242).

Here's an excerpt from the book: "Shifting customer needs are common in today's marketplace. Businesses must be adaptive and responsive to change while delivering an exceptional customer experience to be competitive. Traditional development and delivery frameworks such as waterfall are often ineffective. In contrast, Scrum is a value-driven agile approach which incorporates adjustments based on regular and repeated customer and stakeholder feedback. And Scrum’s built-in rapid response to change leads to substantial benefits such as fast time-to-market, higher satisfaction, and continuous improvement—which supports innovation and drives competitive advantage."

With clear and easy to follow instructions, Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions helps you:

  • Implement and use the most popular agile framework―Scrum;
  • Deliver products in short cycles with rapid adaptation to change, fast time-to-market, and continuous improvement; and
  • Support innovation and drive competitive advantage.

Hailed by Literary Titan as “the book highlights the versatility of Scrum beautifully.”

Winner of 17 first place awards.

Agile Scrum: Your Quick Start Guide with Step-by-Step Instructions is available in paperback and ebook/Kindle in the United States and around the world. Some links by country follow. Get your copy today!


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© Copyright 2018 Scott M. Graffius, Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions™. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written permission of Scott M. Graffius/Exceptional PPM and PMO Solutions™.

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