Agile estimation using the Affinity process

Riz Tabley
3 min readJun 11, 2023
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Affinity estimation is another way to estimate in an agile framework.

It’s a quick and easy way of estimating. It’s really useful for teams who have to estimate a large number of stories (greater than 20).

It doesn’t remove the need to do more granular sizing.

It doesn’t remove the challenge of subjectivity. One team member’s small may be another’s medium.

It also doesn’t remove the indirect influence of senior experience team members skewing the sizing.

Scenarios, where Affinity estimation can play a role, would be:

  • during release planning or during pre-PI where stories can be sized into buckets;
  • during delivery when new stories have been identified and need to be quickly sized.

How to do Affinity Estimation?

The team attends the session.

  • Each team member gets a subset of the product backlog
  • On a wall, you have a scale set up — small on one end and extra large on the other
  • Each team member silently, without discussion or consultation, starts putting their backlog item on the wall on where they think it sits in the scale.
  • The product owner is available at the back for any questions.
  • Any items that can’t be sized are put on a pile to be dealt with later.
  • Consider the work that needs to be done to develop/ create and implement that backlog item.
  • The next step is to edit the wall, team members review the items and in discussion with each other, will move the backlog items around to the agreed position on the wall.
  • Team members need to be mindful of the initial sizing and consult the team member before moving the items to another part of the board.
  • POs take note of discussions and any gaps or additional stories that need to be identified.
  • Put the backlog items into agreed sizing buckets. The team need to agree beforehand on what the sizes mean. Any disagreements are discussed and negotiated by the PO.

Based on discussions from this action, there are several next steps that can be taken. Below isn’t an exhaustive list.

  1. Create additional stories to close the gaps identified.
  2. Refinement of the stories to make it more granular.
  3. Spike to verify some outcome.

Have you tried Affinity estimation? What’s your experience with it? What would you do differently? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

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