Four Steps to Better Sprint Planning

Every sprint begins with a Sprint Planning meeting. What are the keys to a successful meeting, getting the whole team committed to a sprint goal and ending up with a clear view on which task to take on next?

The Agile Manifesto states that projects should be built around motivated individuals, and teams should be self-organizing. Hence, the team manages its own work: planning, estimation and delivery. The teams also pull work from a prioritized backlog rather than having work assigned to them by a manager. This facilitates a greater sense of ownership and commitment and is the driving force for achieving results in an agile team.

The Sprint Planning Meeting is where the Sprint team collaboratively decides what they commit to deliver in the next sprint, and how this work will get done. For a two-week sprint the Sprint Planning meeting could be around 4 hours, but the first couple of times it may need to be longer, and then shorter as the team gets more mature.

It is the responsibility of the Scrum Master to ensure that the Sprint Planning takes place, that the participants understand its purpose and that the agenda and time-box are respected. However, in order to ensure the Sprint Planning is effective, the Product Owner also has homework to do. The backlog has to be kept up-to-date with the top items ordered (about two sprints forward), well understood and sufficiently prepared with fine-grained sized stories and their acceptance criteria. Most of the work is generally done by the Product Owner, but the work that cannot be done by the Product Owner alone is brought into backlog refinement sessions with the team.

The Scrum Guide does not prescribe an official meeting for backlog refinement, but recommends that the refinement process is an ongoing act of adding detail, estimates, and order to items in the backlog. Backlog refinement normally takes place mid-sprint, and its duration is dependent on how new the backlog is, on the sprint length and on the size and maturity of the team. As a rule of thumb, no more than 10% of the team capacity should be spent doing backlog refinement.

With proper backlog refinement sessions in place, the team members are already familiar with the backlog items when it’s time for the Sprint planning meeting. They can now focus on further detailed clarification, lightweight modelling or discussion, re-estimation, and finally the creation of a sprint backlog and sprint goals they feel confident with. They should also pay attention to action items from the retrospective meeting and incorporate these in the sprint plan if possible.

The guide below from our partners at Atlassian helps you get started, and shows you how Jira can help your team to do effective Sprint Planning meetings. When you need more help, feel free to contact us at Sellegi!


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