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Best Practices for Effective Sprint Planning

Introduction

The start of any Sprint in a Scrum Framework is Sprint Planning. Typically, Sprint Planning is an event that takes place after the Sprint Retrospective and marks the first day of the next Sprint. Sprints are an integral part of the Agile methodology. Sprint Planning is an important aspect of Sprints because with better planning, the chances of achieving the goals for the Sprint increase considerably.

What happens in a Sprint Planning meeting?

The entire Scrum Team along with the ScrumMaster are involved in this key event Sprint Planning. The Product Owner is also present during the meeting where he/she highlights the priority list from the Product Backlog. The Development Team then discusses the technicalities and prepares the action plan to follow during the Sprint. The inputs are items from the backlog; and the output is the goal and the action plan. There are individual tasks that are assigned to different team members. 

Since Sprint Planning is so critical for achieving the purpose of the Sprint, it needs to be effectively planned. Here are a few Sprint Planning best practices. 

Best Practices for Effective Sprint Planning

Before the Sprint Planning meeting

1. Come prepared with a refined backlog

One of the first Sprint Planning tips is the refinement of the Product Backlog which is done by the Product Owner. It should be done on top priority before the start of the meeting. Doing this not only saves time but also an effective way to plan the next Sprint properly. In the Product Backlog, the Product Owner needs to prioritize User Stories for which the acceptance criteria has been updated and written. 

2. Having an agenda and roadmap

When you have an agenda and a roadmap before the start of the meeting, you have a direction on which the team can work, optimize their time, and stay focused. 

3. Aligning roadmap and backlog

It is critically important to align and sync the top priority Product Backlog User Stories with the Product Roadmap. When the syncing is proper, the input to the Sprint Planning meeting is optimized.

4. ScrumMaster organizes the entire meeting

It is ScrumMaster’s responsibility to ensure that the Sprint Planning meeting is happening, the meeting is scheduled, and the communication is sent to the team. He/she also needs to ensure that the team has the necessary supplies and information with them so that the meeting can happen smoothly. 

Sprint Planning meeting best practices during the Sprint Planning Meeting

5. Timing

It is important to schedule the Sprint Planning meeting in a justified manner. The usual rule-of-the-thumb, as mentioned in the Scrum Framework, is a maximum 8-hour meeting for one month Sprint. It is essential to time-box the meeting, irrespective of whether you follow a structure or an unstructured meeting format.

6. Brainstorming

The meeting starts with the Product Owner highlighting the priority User Stories. He/She gives reasons for the same and speaks about how these stories are aligned with the roadmap.

Once this is done, it is time for the Development Team to select the work from the Product Backlog. If required, they may seek more details from the Product Owner and ScrumMaster about the User Stories. 

7. Decide the Sprint Goal

Once the discussions are over, it is time for the Scrum Team to formalize the Sprint Goal. They discuss questions like – what is the end objective of the Sprint. What needs to be done from our end to achieve this goal? What defines the ‘Done’ parameter?

It is also vital to remember that the Sprint Goal should be actionable, complex, and challenging. If it is too easy and simple to achieve, it would not be too motivating for the team.

8. Creating subtasks 

Dividing the tasks identified into smaller subtasks is an essential part of the Sprint Planning meeting. This is especially true and applicable when the tasks are too complicated and doing them as a whole can prove to be daunting. It is, therefore, advisable to dissect the tasks in smaller subtasks. Again, a good practice is that each subtask should involve not more than a day. 

9. Target velocity

The ScrumMaster prepares historic data such as past velocity for prior Sprints and takes acceptance from all team members. The velocity data may give an idea about the number of stories that the team aims at finishing during the Sprint with the estimated workload.

10. Documenting the decisions

It is essential that all the decisions made in the Sprint Planning meeting are noted down and documented. It serves as a reference point for all team members. It is vital to keep all the documented points at one central place that can be accessed easily by each team member. 

11. Abstain from taking on multiple tasks simultaneously

It is important to take as many tasks for the Sprint as is achievable and actionable in the given duration. You could estimate the number of tasks to be taken based on your previous experience.

12. Share your experiences with others

One of Sprint Planning best practices is that people share their experiences from their previous Sprints so that mistakes can be avoided. Refer to Sprint burndown charts if the team is new to learn from the experiences of the team.

13. Take approval from everyone in the meeting

The ScrumMaster coaches the Development Team such that they can pull tasks to do. And, that work is not being duplicated. This is time to take acknowledgment and acceptance from everyone in the room. 

14. At no cost should the Sprint Goal get changed

Once the goals are fixed for the Sprint, make sure that you do not change it. Often a situation arises where high-priority items and stories come in between; at such times, it is important to take acceptance from everyone and take a joint call on the way forward. However, in the best interest of the Sprint, the goal must never get changed mid-way.

Conclusion

Sprint Planning is an important and integral part of running a Sprint effectively. The objective of Sprint Planning is quite simple – to define the scope and purpose of the upcoming Sprint. Sprint, as we know, is a time-boxed set period in which a defined set of tasks are completed. The agenda and the focus of what is going to be achieved and what is going to be delivered in the next Sprint. It gives way to the Sprint Goal that is so crucial for the success of the Sprint.

Ensure that you undertake the Sprint Planning on the right note!

References

https://www.atlassian.com/agile/Scrum/Sprint-planning
https://www.sealights.io/Sprint-velocity/Sprint-planning-101-everything-you-need-to-know-to-plan-the-perfect-Sprint/
https://zepel.io/agile/Scrum/Sprint-planning/
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