5 tips for a great Sprint planning Meeting

5 tips


A successful Sprint depends on effective Sprint Planning. Here are five tips to making your Sprint planning as effective and efficient as possible.


1. Prepare with Backlog Refinement workshops

A well-prepared and prioritized backlog is the primary input to Sprint planning. Backlog Refinement is where we confirm that backlog items (Stories) meet the Definition of Ready. Most teams run a recurring Backlog Refinement workshop several days before the Sprint starts. And the Product Owner must do her/his homework before refinement by prioritizing items and identifying their acceptance criteria.


2. WHY: Identify a Sprint Goal

Go beyond merely identifying a list of backlog items (e.g. Stories) to deliver for the Sprint: identify an outcome-based Sprint goal. Here is an example: “Streamline the checkout process for a delightful purchasing experience.” As part of backlog refinement, the Product Owner can strategically prioritize a number of backlog items (e.g. user stories) which collectively represent a significant outcome. A good Sprint goal galvanizes the team.


3. WHAT: clarify what will be delivered

If your backlog items are already well understood, then you are OK to go; but if any backlog items need further clarification, do that now.

The team now needs to identify how many of the top-priority backlog items fit into the Sprint. The Product Owner may negotiate with the developers (cross-functional team who delivers the product) around the scope and acceptance criteria for backlog items, and/or the Sprint goal. The developers always have final say in how much work is feasible for the Sprint.


4. HOW: Decide how the work will get done 

What design or implementation details need to be decided? What risks need to be mitigated? How will we meet our Definition of Done (quality standards) for the Sprint? Who will do the work? At a minimum, each team member should know what task they will do first - and the team should self-organize on task assignments. In the spirit of agility, you might not need to pre-assign every task or user story.


5. Confidence Vote

The facilitator (Scrum Master) asks, “How confident are we in our Sprint plan?” Use a thumb vote or fist-to-five vote. If the team isn’t confident enough, adjust the Sprint scope or plan.


Bonus points! Ask for Return On Time Invested (ROTI) for the meeting. It’s like a mini-retrospective. Each team member votes on a scale of 1 to 5 on how effective and efficient this meeting was. If the numbers are low, ask why. If you can’t find a quick solution, then you might save the discussion for the next retrospective.

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