Sprint Planning is the first event which kicks off the start of each Sprint. It initiates the Sprint by setting a goal, defining the work that needs to be completed, and outlining how it will be carried out by the whole Scrum Team.
By defining a Sprint goal, the team can use this as a basis to determine which product backlog items they work on during that Sprint.
Who is involved in Sprint Planning?
Typically the entire Scrum Team are involved in Sprint Planning and should be mandatory attendees at the Sprint Planning Meeting.
The Product Owner and Developers defines the Sprint goal based on the value that they seek. The Team of Developers must then agree how they are going to deliver this goal by identifying the required work. A Scrum Master often facilitates the Sprint Planning to ensure the discussion is effective and that the Scrum Team is in agreement on the Sprint goal and that the appropriate product backlog items are included in the Sprint backlog.
If any of the attendees are missing from the meeting, it will make it difficult to achieve the Sprint goal so it is important for all to attend. The Scrum Team may also invite other people to attend to provide further advice if necessary.
When does Sprint Planning take place?
The Sprint Planning Meeting will take place on the first day of a new Sprint.
As the event takes place following the review of the previous Sprint, it is a good opportunity to consider discussions in retrospect to help the new Sprint. Some teams might also find it beneficial to have a regular time for the Sprint Planning Meeting so they can ensure their calendar is free from other engagements.
As noted in the Scrum Guide Sprint Planning also has a time-box, depending on the length of the Sprint. It should be timeboxed at 8 hours or less for a one-month sprint.
What needs to be prepared for the Sprint Planning Meeting?
Running a successful Sprint Planning Meeting does require some planning. As mentioned in the previous section, it’s a good opportunity to use retrospective learnings from prior Sprints. The Product Owner must be prepared, combining the lessons from the previous Sprint review, with stakeholder feedback, and vision for the product, so they can set the scene for the Sprint. The Product Backlog should be refined to provide clarity for the team.
What is the Structure of the Sprint Planning Meeting?
The Sprint Planning Meeting will follow a structure to address the below three key topics.
Topic 1: Why is this Sprint valuable? As we have touched on, the Product Owner should define the value that they seek from the product. The whole Scrum Team then collaborates to define a Sprint Goal that communicates why the Sprint is valuable to the stakeholders. The Sprint Goal to be finalised before the end of Sprint Planning.
Topic Two: What can be done this Sprint? The Developers and Product Owner collaborate on which items from the backlog can be achieved during the current Sprint. Defining how much work can be completed within a Sprint is often challenging. However, the Developers should utilise their experience with past performance, upcoming capacity, and their Definition of Done to be confident with their Sprint forecasts.
Topic Three: How will the chosen work get done? For the final topic, the Developers plan the work necessary for the selected Product Backlog items. This can be achieved by identifying the task needed for delivering each of the Product Backlog. Usually task are the work of one day or less. It is important to understand that tasks might change during the Sprint, but the Sprint Goal remains.
The Sprint Goal, the Product Backlog items selected for the Sprint, plus the plan for delivering them are together referred to as the Sprint Backlog.
Common difficulties in Sprint Planning
There are a few common mistakes which should also be considered.
Not having a clearly defined Sprint goal will weaken the Scrum team’s ability to deliver. It can also result in the team providing a Sprint load of work without feeling like progress has been made. Needless to say, this is a crucial part of Sprint Planning for both structure and team morale.
Not allowing changes during Sprint Planning can also pose a common mistake. It’s important to remain flexible, particularly as the team continues to learn and develop.
Summary of Sprint Planning
Sprint Planning is a significant event for ensuring the success of each Sprint. It provides value by allowing a team to start each Sprint with a mutual understanding of what they will work on for the duration of the Sprint, as well as providing an initial plan for how they will approach that work.