Agile Fundamentals: Fists of Five Voting

Need a simple way to gain a sense of the likelhood of a plan’s success from your team? Try the “Fists of Five,” a simple but useful addition to any team’s Agile toolkit. In less than a minute, you’ll know exactly how your team feels about your chances. You can learn the technique in a minute and a half.

It’s often useful to get a “gut check” on the likelihood of a sprint or release plan being successful.

If you’re a new team and don’t have an established velocity, this gut check might be all the data you’ve got.

To perform a “Fists-of-Five” vote, every member of the team votes on the likelihood of a plan being successful on a 1–5 scale.

It’s called fists of five because you can vote using the fingers on one hand.

The scale is:

  1. I’m totally sure the plan will fail
  2. I think the plan is more likely to fail
  3. I don’t know if the plan will succeed or fail
  4. I think the plan is more likely to succeed
  5. I’m totally sure the plan will succeed

In general, it’s acceptable to proceed if everyone votes 4 or 5.

If someone votes a 3 or less, ask them what it might take to vote a 4 or 5.

For instance, suppose all of the developers vote 4 or 5, but the user experience researcher votes 2.

Ask why.

They may tell you that there are too many items that require their skill set in the sprint.

They might be willing to vote a 4 or 5 if some of those items are replaced with developer-oriented items. So swap those in and vote again.

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