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Aligning Business with Poker Planning

Théo Carrive

CTO at Cheerz

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Problem

I currently work as a CTO in a company that went from just 4 people to 80 in four years. Vision of the product was mostly led by the two co-founders. With the growth, after numerous people joined us, even if we tried to always present the plan and ask for feedback, we noticed that people did not feel involved in the projects we were developing. People had the impression that we did not care about their department's requests and they came to be a bit cynical about the roadmap decisions. It led to politics, bad mood, and poor team efficiency.

Actions taken

For each squad/roadmap, we set-up a bi-monthly meeting called "business refinement". This meeting involved around eight business owners, representing all the departments (CRM, Acquisition, Customer Support, Marketing, etc.), and the Product Owner. After an update of the current Squad challenges and current projects, the PO makes people estimate the business value of each task that we have in the icebox, exactly the same way as Poker Planning for developers:

  • Product Owner pitches the task
  • Each business owner picks up a card (1, 2, 3, 5, 8), according to how much he/she thinks the task is important for the company
  • We count to three, then everybody displays their cards
  • If there are discrepancies between estimations, we let people with the biggest differences speak, then we re-vote
  • When all tasks are estimated, we use WSJF to display a first sorting and we refine it together to eventually change the sorting When we leave this meeting, everybody has a clear view of what will be done, why, and why some projects that seemed important at first are in the end prioritized lower than others.

Lessons learned

Engagement and alignment are key for efficiency. One great way to nurture these two items is to involve people often. This methodology has really helped us:

  • Improve the communication between different departments and the technical team
  • Identify when some persons have different understanding of the benefits of some projects, and then make sure we all end up with the same understanding
  • Stop cynicism and critics about roadmap decisions
  • Create engagement and alignment on the roadmap, that can then spread into each department

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Théo Carrive

CTO at Cheerz


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