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What Is Delegation Poker

Delegation Poker & the Delegation Board Explained in 2024

Delegation poker can help agile teams communicate, collaborate, self-organize and grow into an unstoppable project force. Join us as we take a look at the game and how it can help lead a team to success.

Brett DayAleksander HougenIgor Kurtz

Written by Brett Day (Writer, Editor)

Reviewed by Aleksander Hougen (Co-Chief Editor)

Facts checked by Igor Kurtz (Fact-checking editor)

Last Updated: 2024-03-05T18:58:14+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

Key Takeaways: How to Play Delegation Poker
  1. The team gathers in a controlled environment.
  2. The delegations that need to be worked on are written on a board.
  3. Participants receive seven cards with a status and points ranging from one to seven.
  4. The scenario is read aloud, and each player picks a card that represents how they feel the situation should be handled.
  5. If not all members agree, a comprehensive discussion takes place during which team members can express their views.
  6. Another round of the game is played, and the team votes on the scenario again with the hopes that a consensus can be reached.
  7. The result is recorded on a board once a mutual decision has been made.

Facts & Expert Analysis

  • What Is Delegation Poker: Delegation poker is a controlled and gradual way to introduce self-organization to an agile team. Not only does it help with delegating decisions, but it’s also fun.
  • The Game Explained: The game consists of seven cards, each of which has a delegation type and a score. Players pick cards they feel represent a scenario, and the team discusses the decisions they made before marking the outcome on a board. 
  • Why Play Delegation Poker: The game is one of the management practices discussed in ‘Management 3.0,’ a book that champions fostering worker happiness and teamwork.

One of the main roles of an agile project manager is to grow their project teams, and one of the best ways to do this is through empowerment. Delegation poker, a game designed to help teams collaborate, make decisions, self-manage and self-organize, is one method many agile leaders use to help drive their teams to success.

In this guide, we’ll explore delegation poker in depth. You’ll learn what it is, how it works and how it can make decision-making meetings more bearable. We’ll also cover how to play the game on whiteboards or in some of the best project management software, and the benefits of implementing this agile technique. Without further ado, let’s jump right in and start learning.

What Is Delegation Poker?

Delegation poker, which Jurgen Apello designed for the book ‘Management 3.0,’ is a card game that helps agile project teams make decisions about responsibilities. The game builds engagement and trust within a team while encouraging decisions that will drive a project forward.

How Does Delegation Poker Work?

At the start of the game, each player receives the same seven playing cards, each of which has a specific meaning and one of seven levels of points (we’ll cover this in detail later). Different work scenarios or delegations are then read aloud.

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Players pick a card that represents how they would delegate the scenario. The team then discusses the cards that have been picked. The idea is for the team to come to a mutual understanding of how the delegation poker story should be handled. Once an agreement is in place, the decision is written on a board.

The 7 Levels of Delegation: From Directing to Fully Delegating

The cards used in the game represent a delegation level. Below, we’ll explain what each level means.

  1. Tell: “I will tell them.”

    The manager decides the best course of action and tells the team. There doesn’t need to be any justification; the decision is the decision, and it will stick.

  2. Sell: “I will sell my decision to them.”

    The manager makes the call and then tries to sell the idea to the team to convince them it’s the best idea.

  3. Consult: “I will consult and then decide.”

    The project manager or scrum master consults with the team and gathers feedback before deciding how to delegate a task.

  4. Agree: “We will agree together.”

    The team has a discussion and mutually decides on the scenario’s outcome.

  5. Advise: “I will advise, but they decide.”

    The team discusses the delegation and decides after seeking the project leader’s advice.

  6. Inquire: “I will inquire after they decide.”

    The team discusses a delegation. After the team reaches a consensus, the project manager or scrum master asks questions about the outcome and the reasons behind the team’s decision.

  7. Delegate: “I will fully delegate.”

    The highest of the delegation levels, seven, is the “delegate” card. If this card is chosen, the manager lets the team decide how to handle the situation and shares no input.

The Delegation Board Explained

A delegation board helps avoid confusion and is often placed in a highly visible area, so teams can reference it. The board can be created on a digital whiteboard, like those found on and ClickUp; on a physical board; or on cardboard. You can learn more about the software mentioned in our review and ClickUp review.

The board features seven columns and enough rows for teams to list the scenarios to be discussed. Once the decision-making processes have been completed for each scenario, the outcome is written on the board. It’s a simple way to track the team’s decision, but it works.

Lessons Learned: The Educational Objectives of Delegation Poker

‘Management 3.0,’ by Jurgen Apello, teaches the agile management principle that maintaining worker happiness and teamwork will help an organization reach its goals. The agile method, which Apollo discusses in the book, is about understanding three key ideas:

  • Delegation is not binary. The level of delegation can vary wildly, from an announcement that a leader or decision-making authority makes to a decision that a team is making, and there are plenty of gray areas. 
  • Delegation is a step-by-step process. Self-organization takes a while to grow. Teams can reach levels of self-organization by understanding each other and through open communication.
  • Delegation is context dependent. Agile leadership (project managers and scrum masters) should delegate as much as possible but must also be aware that if you go too far, chaos can ensue. 

How to Play Delegation Poker

Delegation poker is a fun way for teams to communicate, collaborate and help themselves organize, which is a massive part of the agile process. Though the game might look different from company to company, its general flow is similar to the outline below.

Setting Up the Board

Before teams play, they must set up a delegation board, which is a type of RACI chart. The board must have seven columns — one for each of the seven levels of delegation — and enough rows for each scenario the team needs to discuss and agree on. 

Playing the Game

Below is a simple step-by-step process that outlines the flow of the game.

  1. Meet in a Controlled Environment

    The project manager should pick a location where the team feels comfortable holding frank, transparent conversations.

  2. Deal the Cards

    Each team member receives the same seven delegation cards. Each card represents the different levels of delegation and their points.

  3. Announce a Scenario

    A technical leader reads aloud the description of a delegation or scenario to the rest of the team.

  4. Listen and Decide

    Each player considers the scenario and picks a card that represents how they feel. The player plays their delegation cards privately by placing them face down on the table.

  5. Reveal Your Card

    The team leader asks the participants to turn their cards over. Each participant then receives points based on the card they have picked. The only players who don’t receive a score are those with the highest- and lowest-scoring cards.

  6. Justify Your Decision

    The players with the highest- and lowest-scoring cards explain why they picked their cards. Once the players have spoken, the scenario is reconsidered in future discussion rounds, where the decision-making process starts again.

  7. Write the Outcome on the Delegation Board

    Once the team agrees on a card for a delegation or scenario, the decision is recorded on a delegation board.

Documenting the Results

The last step listed above — marking the outcome on a delegation board — is the documentation process for the game. Teams must not skip the process of using a delegation board. When the board is complete and placed in a visible area, teams can reference it to see what they decided.

Tips for Delegation Success

  • Convey to the team that they are in a safe space where they can communicate freely without fear of retribution and that they have decision-making power. 
  • Ensure the players understand the rules of the game.
  • Many teams do not track card points, as it can distract from the game’s main aim.
  • How scenarios are described can have a significant impact on the outcome. Ensure that the scenarios are explained clearly and concisely to avoid confusion.
  • Ensure that all parties are involved. Many agile teams are quite small, so this shouldn’t be an issue; however, scrum of scrums teams may struggle. 
  • The aim of the game is for the team to reach a consensus. However, if teams can’t agree, this process can become time-consuming. Don’t be afraid to move on from a scenario or postpone it.

The Role of Delegation Poker in Project Management

Anything that can add a little fun to the work we do is a good thing. As you can imagine, delegation poker can do just that and can benefit your team in many ways. We’ll look at a few of the advantages below.

  • The game encourages transparent communication and team collaboration.
  • It promotes self-organization and lets the team feel empowered to make decisions.
  • It removes hierarchical boundaries and promotes the importance of teamwork.
  • The often-laborious task of delegation becomes fun and encourages engagement.
  • Project managers can decrease their workload by playing delegation poker.
  • The game can increase trust levels between leadership and the team.
  • The method can increase a team’s courage through decision-making.

Final Thoughts

Delegation poker is a good collaboration game for agile teams who want to foster an environment of collaboration, communication and self-organization. The game is fun, empowers teams and increases team buy-in for the project they’re working on. If you’re looking for a way to help with the delegation process, delegation poker could be just what you’re looking for.

Have you played delegation poker? Did you find that it helped your team grow? Which agile frameworks do you implement the game in? Let us know in the comment section, and as always, thanks for reading.

FAQ: Delegation Poker

  • Delegation poker is a game for agile teams that increases collaboration, project buy-in and self-organization.

  • The seven levels of delegation are tell, sell, consult, agree, advise, inquire and delegate.

  • A delegation board is a tool used to record a team’s decision about a scenario.

  • Absolutely. Though buying a pack of delegation cards would be easier, a team can quickly make cards and a board.

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