Scrum sprint planning
"Plans are worthless, but planning is everything."

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What is a Sprint Planning?

The Sprint Planning is the first activity of every Sprint in Scrum. During the Sprint Planning, the entire Scrum Team collaborates on what will be delivered in the next sprint, how it will be delivered and why this is the right thing to work on during the sprint.

The result of the Sprint Planning is a clear understanding of the sprint goal together with a sprint backlog containing refined work items and a plan on how to approach the work.

According to the Scrum Guide, the Sprint Planning could take up to 8 hours for a sprint of one month. In practise, we suggest taking the time you need to create a proper plan for the sprint since it depends per team/product. If you need a lot more time, this might be an indication of gaps within your process.

Why should we do Sprint Planning?

The Sprint Planning creates clarity and transparancy, gives direction to the team and sets the expectations for the sprint. 

  • Clarity

    The Sprint Planning creates clarity around the goal of the sprint, as well as on what should be delivered and how. Because the entire Scrum Team is present, and additional stakeholders if needed, all the necessairy people to create a clear plan are available during the Sprint Planning.

  • Transparancy

    A clear Sprint Goal and Sprint Backlog create transparency on what will be delivered during the sprint.

  • Gives direction

    A well performed Sprint Planning gives direction to the entire Scrum Team. Everybody on the team knows what to do, how to do it and why they are doing it. Everybody on the team is looking in the same direction.

  • Sets the expectations

    The expectations of the sprint will be set during the Sprint Planning. The Product Owner will share what he or she wants to work on. The developers will collaborate on what can be delivered based on their velocity, capacity and the work items needed to complete the sprint goal. This collaboration makes it possible to align on what is realistic to be delivered in the sprint.

Who should be involved in the Sprint Planning?

The entire Scrum Team should be present during the Sprint Planning. Additional stakeholders can be invited if needed. When one or more members of the Scrum Team are unavailable during the Sprint Planning, we introduce the risk of creating an unrealistic or incorrect plan.

Topic One: Why

First, the team decides why the sprint will be executed. What’s the value of the sprint, how will we increase the value of the existing product or service?

Usually, the Product Owner proposes how the value of the product or service can be increased during the sprint. Based on this, the team will collaborate on a goal for the next sprint: the Sprint Goal. This goal summarizes the value that the sprint will bring, and gives direction for the sprint.

Topic Two: What

The next step is to determine what will be delivered in the current sprint so we can achieve the Sprint Goal. Based on the Sprint Goal, the team will collaborate on which items should be selected from the Product Backlog so that the Sprint Goal can be realised. New work items are created if needed. The selection of work items from the Product Backlog will result in the Sprint Backlog.

So, how do you know which work items you should select, and how many you can select?

Each work item, often defined as User Stories, should clearly state the result and added value that it will bring together with the effort to implement it. Based on our Sprint Goal, we can select work items that contribute to the Sprint Goal.

Next to that, the team should know how much work it can pick up in the Sprint. This can be achieved by looking at the average velocity and available capacity in the current sprint. Some additional refinement might be needed to ensure that all work items are clear and achievable.

This step requires collaboration from the entire Scrum Team.

Topic Three: How

When we have a clear Sprint Goal (“why”) and we know which work items we should implement to achieve this (“what”), it is time to look at how we will do this. The team creates a plan on how to achieve the selected work.

In this stage, the practical plan for the sprint is created by the team. We should look at the (technical) implementation of each work item, to the impact on the already existing solution, who will work on which items, if we have dependencies with external parties, other teams or other work items and so on. 

The goal of this stage is to create clarity on how the work will be implemented during the sprint, what is needed for this, and what needs to be taken into account. After this stage, the team should be able to start the sprint.

It’s important to consider the Definition of Done in this step as well. Everything that needs to be done in order to meet the Definition of Done must be discussed.

So, what is a "plan"?

Each team will take specific elements into account while creating a plan for the sprint. Some general elements that you can include are the following: 

  • The work is refined

    The work for at the least the first days of the sprint is refined into tangible tasks that can be picked up by the development team. These tasks are clear in terms of what should be done and how it will be done.

  • Outcome is clear

    The enitre team has a common understanding of the sprint goal and what should be achieved by the end of the sprint.

  • Capacity is known

    The team knows it's capacity and takes things such as holidays into account. If team members will perform work outside of the sprint, it is also taken into account.

  • Dependencies are identified

    The team knows it's dependencies with external parties or other teams. They have a plan on how these dependencies will be managed.

  • Confidence

    The team is confident that the sprint can be achieved, and how they will achieve it.

  • All the work is taken into account

    All the work that is needed to achieve the sprint goal is included in the sprint planning, not only the development work. Activities such as design work, analysis, testing... are also included.

It can be valuable to create a checklist of what needs to be covered during the sprint planning. When you identify gaps during your sprint (e.g. the team forgot to identify a dependency to another team during the sprint planning, causing certain work to be blocked or delayed because the other team has not taking this work into account in their sprint), you can add this to the checklist and make sure the team identifies this during the next sprints. 

Sprint Planning Checklist

Sprint Planning Checklist

Download a template checklist that you can use during the sprint planning with your teams below for free:
Download

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