Ian Hayward

The blog of a tech lead, equal parts tutorial and archive for things I have worked on.

I don't do adverts and would rather a free crypto viewing model. If you are interested in either how that works or helping me out, click on the Brave or BitTube links below

Sprint Planning Buckaroo

March 02, 2019

So, this sounds insane. But hear me out, it will make sense shortly

I, like many developers theses days work in a pseudo agile way. We write tickets, stick them on a board of some kind, then smash all the tickets into the QA ready column until the two weeks have passed, then release it. Couple of problems with this, one being the estimation system for what “enough work” is and the other being the fighting balance of getting the work product want, whilst also sorting tech debt.

It’s just a 5 min job right?

Time estimation is something almost all developers have to deal with, trying to convey to people who don’t exactly understand what your doing how long something they want will take. The simplest example of this is just estimating in hours or days. Other systems like sprint poker and points systems give a better idea of effort, while not giving the dev team a deadline, but they need your product team to understand what a single point is worth to really be relevant.

Don’t change that code now, it looks fine and we have all this to do!

The business must always be making new things, especially in competitive markets. But if the code has problems and is ignored by the company it will have to eventually face the dreaded re-write and we all know a horror story or two about that! Balancing this is hard, with normally one side winning out completely from the other, not exactly collaborative.

So… you said something about Buckaroo?

Yes, Sprint Planning Buckaroo.

Now you may have put most of the dots together at this point. Assign tickets to items in the game, throw them on the Bucking Donkey (Horse?) until it kicks, once he kicks that’s a full sprint. But let’s go into slightly more detail.

Firstly the important bit, all the bits of buckaroo weight different amounts. So by using that, you can pick your big wins to be the hat or the chest and your easy fixes to be the holster or the rope. There’s a list near the bottom of the weights of each item. Sometimes however it’s better to not share the exact weight out and let people add put their own notions of weight, whatever works best for your team.

Next you need your tickets. You want to make sure you have tasks broken down to their smallest parts that are safe to release to the wild. This should be pretty standard practice for most development teams but for anyone wanting to try who doesn’t normally sprint plan, this may help.

How to run a session

So now you have all your pieces, your work and more than likely your debt ready to go, how does it work? Well first you split the items by their colour, Red will be product, Blue will be debt, if you have a version with more colours then split the rest equally between the two main colours. If you have multiple disciplines of engineering (API, Web, Mobile, etc) make sure they all do their own Buckaroo’s worth of work. You don’t want three Web tasks, one API task and Mobile doing nothing all week.

Step one

Pick a ticket, go for high priority ones first and smaller ones near the tipping point. Red always goes first with the saddle so this can be the core bit or work that needs to be done, careful to make sure it’s a need not a want.

Step two

Agree upon an item to represent the ticket, the bigger task can be a hat while that smaller one shouldn’t be more than the rope for example.

Step three

Put that item on the buckaroo, carefully. There is a mulligan option if someone has an issue like sneezing or slipping while placing.

Step four

Repeat steps one - three again until it bucks, and there you have a sprint ready to go!

Cool, but why is this such a great idea then?

On the simplest level it makes it easy for everyone to understand workloads. Having something physical that will literally kick out when it’s had too much is much easier to understand than a ticket having an effort level of 5. It also makes it a system where no one is holding back work or adding too much, everyone will blame the Donkey (Horse?) for the workload being the workload. Finally, it’s fun, you literally get to play high stakes Buckaroo every time you need to plan a sprint.

So buy a copy of Buckaroo and have a go, leave me comments below on how it went over with your squad and any alterations you made, such as adding blu tak to certain items if you end up with a mega piece of work!

The Weights


  • Hat - 11g
  • Blanket - 9g
  • Saddle- 7g
  • Dynamite- 5g
  • Shovel- 4g
  • Holster- 2g


  • Chest- 11g
  • Lamp- 7g
  • Guitar- 6g
  • Watch- 5g
  • Pan- 3g
  • Rope- 3g

Note: I originally wrote this article on Medium in 2018, you can check it out (and give it a clap) here

Share This Post