Evil Mastermind: for when planning poker becomes unbearable

13 Dec 2017 Michael BenteinEvan Van Lissum Work is Play

For when planning poker becomes unbearable.

Are people starting to get absent minded during planning poker?

Is it hard to stop everyone from speaking at the same time?

Object of Play

Traditional planning poker follows a quite repetitive setup:

Evil planning poker is a great tool to bring fresh energy and focus in your Poker Planning sessions.

It uses an idea from the Mastermind Hotseat session but enhances it with a ‘magic’ remote control. First time I heard about this technique was from Evan Van Lissum, a living encyclopedia of tricks and tips.

For each new card the user in the hotseat changes and becomes the ‘evil mastermind’ : EM

The EM’s goal is to achieve as quickly as possible a common agreement on the estimate for the card.

The results have been hilarious, yet quite spectacular!

Tools

Planning poker cards
A Magic wand (stick) or remote control

How

For each new card the user in the hotseat changes and becomes the ‘evil mastermind’ : EM

The EM’s goal is to achieve as quickly as possible a common agreement on the estimate for the card.

After each card the EM in the hotseat will receive a score from the scrummaster. Decide in advance what can be the prize for the winner and what may happen to the loser. For example, the loser may have to buy a drink to the winner, or the looser may have to bring breakfast to the team, or ..

Warning :

This technique is very provocative, the EM will use a ‘switching on or off’ device: only the person who has been ‘switched on’ by the EM can talk. If someone else wants to say something, they raise their hand. The EM can choose to move his pointer to another person, - effectively shutting off the person that was talking -. You should prepare the team for this and make sure there is a safe environment. Also, intervene if you feel people are really uncomfortable with this. At first it may feel very rude to be switched off by an EM.

  1. A new card is taken. And a new EM takes hotseat.
    The EM asks if everyone understands what the card is about, if everyone agrees, the estimation starts.
  2. The scrummaster starts the timer for the EM.
  3. The team shows the first estimate when everyone is ready.

       4. Different than with regular planning poker, the EM points to a person who explains the estimate.

       5. As soon as the EM feels that a person talking is not adding new knowledge or added value they can switch them off and switch on another person or:

  • propose an estimate and ask if everyone agrees.
  • choose to start a new round of estimates for the same card based on the new information

       6. As soon as the team agrees on a common estimate, the scum master stops the timer and gives a score to the EM

The score is calculated as follows :

        Score = seconds needed to get a common agreement divided by the estimate

Example :    75 seconds for a 2 point estimate : score 35

                       150 seconds for a 5 point estimate : score 30

   7. After the scrummaster gives the score to the EM, the next card is taken and the next EM takes hotseat

After a while the planning poker session becomes a lot more hilarious and EM’s begin to develop the little Evil side that helps them reach estimates faster. 

Crucial in the game is to make sure the EM switches each estimate! 

After a few rounds, let all Evil Masterminds calculate their average score and determine the winner and loser.. 

Good luck and have fun!