Silent Estimation

Silent Grouping method available for Smart Guess users

The Silent Grouping method, also known as Bucket System Estimation or Silent Estimation, was introduced by Ken Power in 2011. It is designed to minimize unnecessary discussion users often get bogged down with when using Planning Poker to estimate user stories. It is designed to perfectly complement Planning Poker, and now both methods are available from Smart Guess. We have named the new solution Silent Estimation.

How to run your first Silent Grouping meeting with your team?

0. Preparation

Ask your team members to review the stories before the meeting. This will save time, compared to if only some have reviewed while others have not. Furthermore, allow participants to ask questions when the meeting starts and clarify any questions before starting.

1. Lay the ground rules

Review the following with your team:

  • What is a relative estimate (if needed)

  • Decide who will go first, second, etc.

  • Decide on how many stories each team member will estimate / each turn

  • Clarify steps #2,# 3, and #4 below (or share this post with your team)

  • Important: keep the estimation session Silent, or mostly silent (see variations below), during steps #2 and #3 below

  • When team members disagree on a story placement

    • consider why your colleague might think the story belongs there

    • Before moving it to the '?'-column for further discussion


Decide who goes first



2. Individual Placement

Goal: Quickly get an initial estimate for all user stories

Take turns, one at a time, place stories on the board, and get an initial assessment of the story size. 

3. Group placement

Goal: Allow everyone to (silently) provide input to initial estimates and get to a consensus on the size of the stories

Take turns in moving stories you find still need to be correctly sized. Team members might move the same story repeatedly, i.e., one moves a story from 13 to 20, and another moves it back to 13. In these cases, remind the team to consider why your colleague moved the story. Observing and thinking through why the user story moved is often enough to resolve the disagreement. When nobody is prepared to compromise, place the story in the '?' column for further discussion.

4. Discussion and reflection

Goal: Resolve any disputes that occurred during step 3. Reflect on the experience; gain consensus before moving on.

Go through the stories in the '?-column' and clarify why team members couldn't agree silently. You can use the planning poker method for these cases.


Have just one round

Instead of having Individual placement, then Group placement, allow team members to move any story. Sometimes, the focus moves early to a few user stories where there is disagreement. For this reason, keep these steps separate to prevent this.

Allow little talking

A quick and quietly whispered conversation can often resolve disagreements and clear misunderstandings. However, it is a slippery slope. The facilitator needs to be aware of the effects of this and the example it sets for the rest of the team. It requires careful balance and awareness of the different forces at play in the room.