The Bucket System is all about estimating large amounts of items with small and medium sized groups and doing it fast. It is ideal for agile environments because it is collaborative, fast and gives relative results. You can estimate hundreds of items within an hour and everyone in the group can participate roughly equally. Since the results cannot be traced to any individual, this system promotes group accountability. You can work with stakeholders to predict value or collaborate with teams to estimate effort.
How the Bucket System Works
1. Use the diagram below to create the physical environment and make sure that all the items you need to estimate are written on cards.
2. Pick an item randomly from the collection and read it to your group. Put it in the 8 bucket. It will be the first reference item.
3. Select another item randomly from the collection and read it. The item’s relative place on the scale will be discussed by the group. The item will be placed in the right bucket once consensus is achieved.
4. Pick a third item randomly. Again, the group will discuss it and the item will be placed in the right bucket once consensus is attained.
5. The items can be re-scaled in case they have tilted the scale to one end.
6. Assign the remaining items equally to all members of the group. Every member puts items on the scale without discussing with other members. If a member has an item that he doesn’t understand, that item can be given to another person.
7. Every member must quietly evaluate the items placed on the scale. If someone finds an item that he thinks should not be there, he can discuss it with the group. The group will discuss it until they reach a consensus and the item is placed in the right bucket.
8. Record the estimates by writing the bucket numbers on your cards.
Things to Consider when Using the Bucket System
There are some things that you should consider when using the Bucket System. One of these is that you can place several items in the same bucket. Placing items between buckets is prohibited. If the item distribution is titled to one side of the scale or the other, the group should discuss during the “sanity check” if the items should and can be distributed more consistently along the scale. If it is possible, the group can do it together.
The facilitator should also observe to ensure that nobody moves any item that has already been placed until the sanity check is done. The distribution of items among group members doesn’t need to be precisely equal. You can distribute the items roughly.
If one or two members are working sluggishly through their items, they can share the remaining items with those who are already done. It’s not acceptable for any member to completely withdraw from the process. Someone who wants to abstain from the process should be counselled. This means he won’t have any say in the estimates in the future. Absolute silence should be maintained during the divide and conquer step. There should be no mutual discussions of items to protect the privacy of members placing items.
— Slimane Zouggari