I took the photo of one of our product development teams yesterday. What I hope you can see from the photo is engagement of everyone in the conversation. It's quite unlike many tedious story estimation meetings that I've been in at other organisations. Often developers are in a room for a long time putting numbers on user stories and gradually losing the will to live.
We used to have a similar long session every few weeks to estimate a big batch of stories before selecting those to work on next. Our Product team used to meet with stakeholders and write up details into TargetProcess only to discover that not all the information developers needed was available at estimation time.
Over the last year we've evolved the way we work. Developers sign-up to do preliminary investigations on each story with the aim of discovering whether it's feasible and worth investing development time in.
We have a regular 30min Story Time slot after lunch on Monday, Wednesdays, Fridays. If there's a story "Ready for Estimate" then we discuss possible approaches and how to break it down. The purpose of the meeting is to get a broader opinion on how much development effort is likely to be involved. These meetings are held in the Dev area and often involved sketching on the whiteboard. The developer who did the preliminary investigation leads this. If there's no valuable stories ready then we skip the meeting.
The teams estimate in points which are roughly ideal pair days. We used a blind-voting technique but not with poker cards - we use cheap mini sketchpads - these are erasable and hang on hooks next to our team boards. Here's Jahed, Jason and Tim with theirs.
We don't get into a detailed design discussion, this only happens when we start work on developing the story and that only happens if the estimated story gets prioritised by our stakeholders.
The result is that estimation has become a small part of our Story Time discussions - these meetings are now short and sweet only usually covering one story. Would love to hear whether your teams do anything similar.