Sprints help software development teams to keep pace with the implementation of new iterations. Everyone in the team must be clear about what focus on during a Sprint and be aware of what has precedence.

Before any Sprint, the project team participates in a Sprint Planning session. This session is one of the crucial elements of Scrum reality. This post “unpacks” this meeting and offers some helpful tips to make your next Agile Sprint Planning more efficient, effective, and painless.

What Is Sprint Planning?

Sprint planning is a canonical Scrum event that kicks off a Sprint. Its purpose is to define what can be delivered in the Sprint and how that work can be achieved. This planning process is run in collaboration with the entire Scrum team.

Seems easy. However, this event is rather critical and should be done with a full measure of the seriousness of responsibility as the meeting establishes the product development goal and plans for the upcoming Sprint.

If Spring planning agenda is successful, it will identify the essential strategic items:

  • Sprint goal – a brief summary of what is planned to accomplish in the next Sprint.
  • Sprint backlog – the list of user stories and other items the team has agreed to work on in the upcoming Sprint.

Who should be involved?

The plans are discussed within the meeting and should be attended by the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the entire team. The attendance of outside stakeholders is optional.

During the Sprint Planning meeting, the PO presents the features with the highest priority, often using an appropriate product management tool with the planning functionality.

Participated team members ask questions; they turn high-level user stories of the product backlog into the more detailed tasks of the sprint backlog. In fact, the Product Owner should not describe each item being tracked on the product backlog.

Sprint Planning agenda: what details should be prioritized?

As the key goal of Agile Sprint Planning is developing main details regarding the team’s planned work during the next Sprint, so the team should plan the solving of the following issues during this meeting.

As the basis of the team’s meeting agenda, the following items can be used:

  • Set up the overall strategic objective for the next Sprint.
  • Discuss the product backlog and define which items belong on the next Sprint backlog.
  • Discuss team capacity.
  • Find the consensus on the proposed Sprint goal and backlog items.
  • Discuss the challenges that could slow progress on the Sprint backlog.
  • Define the new Sprint backlog’s tasks.
  • Estimate the timeframes for every task assigned.
  • Confirm the timeframe of the upcoming Sprint.

Focus on outcomes, not your work

Sometimes it’s quite easy to “hang” in the work during the Scrum Sprint Planning.

The level of information you are aware at the start may be low, and much of it is based on assumptions. According to Scrum, you cannot plan upfront; you can learn by doing, and then feed that information back into the process.

User stories that actually describe the work from a customer’s point of view re-focus defects and improvements on the outcome the customer is seeking.

User stories with clear and measurable results let you know when you are done. This clarity on the work the team is focusing on allows everyone to get the transparency needed to get started on the work.

How to be prepared to a Sprint Planning meeting?

  • Prepare the backlog. Before the Sprint Planning meeting, the Product Owner must ensure that all the items in the backlog that can be considered for the Sprint are ready. Without this preparation, the meeting will be less efficient and more time-consuming.
  • Measure user stories. One more responsible for the Product Owner is to ensure that every user story has the right size to be thoughtfully considered during Sprint Planning.
  • Examine the commitment of the team. The PO should have the info about how much time people will be available over the next Sprint. Review the calendar and clarify who will be out on vacation and what are the holidays coming up.
  • Establish velocity. If you have an average amount of work that you usually complete in each Sprint, use it as a measure of how much can get done while planning the sprint.
  • Evaluate your capacity. In case the team is not fully dedicated to one product, be sure to take that into consideration when planning.
  • Draft an agenda. Write a Sprint Planning meeting checklist and distribute it to the entire team. This Sprint Planning template will help you to save time by adapting.

Agile Sprint Planning is an essential ceremony for teams to conduct in order to perform good work. What are your secrets of running a Sprint Planning meeting? Would you like to share them?