How to Execute a Sprint Planning Meeting that Gets Results

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Simply put, a sprint planning meeting defines when the sprint starts, ends and what goal will be achieved during that sprint. Though simply defined does not always translate into easily achieved, so as the ScrumMaster how do you get the results you want?

To start, make sure every team member understands planning a sprint is a team effort, not a meeting to attend just to be told what to do. Though the Product Owner creates the backlog of work and apply priorities, the team decides on the sprint goal, meaning what will this sprint achieve, then the team determines what and how much work to include from the backlog in order to achieve the stated goal.

Related Post: 8 Tips For A Better Daily Scrum

If possible, go into the meeting with an understanding of how much work the team can accomplish in one sprint, i.e. sprint velocity. Sprint velocity is determined by averaging the story point estimates of all completed and accepted work from previous sprints. While this does assume the team has been working together for a time, sprint velocity is a key sprint planning guide in helping the team determine how much work it can reasonably to pull from the backlog. Remember however, this is only a guide, the team can decide to pull more or less story points for a sprint.  

Live by the rule, if you don’t know, ask. Here is where the team clarifies as much as possible. Understanding the requirements, dependencies, priorities and time commitment of all the work to be included in the sprint. 

Specifically the team:

  • Assigns story points to the work, ensuring each story is no more than a bite-sized chunk of work, and breaking down any stories determined to be too large.

  • Discusses story requirements to get a clear understanding of the work to be done.

  • Outlines story dependencies and assigns priority order to the any stories involved.

  • Discusses know impediments to the work included, resolving issues or creating work-arounds so as not to jeopardize the sprint.

  • Divides the work among the team members.

The whole team must be committed to the proposed sprint workload and lifespan. Questions or doubts about any of aspect of the sprint can cause unplanned changes to the sprint, reduced  velocity and missed deadlines, as well as, stress and tension among team members. Get everyone one the same page before the sprint starts.

Related Post: 5 Things To Consider When Developing a Sprint Backlog

Lastly, a planning meeting should start and end on time. If the team cannot execute a planning meeting effectively how can the team expect to execute a sprint effectively. As a general rule, plan 1-2 hours of meeting time for each week of the sprint. Therefore, a two-week sprint will have a 2-4 hour planning meeting. Planning meeting length depends on team efficiency and experience. Meetings may be longer when a project first starts, but should shorten as the team becomes familiar with the process.

Planning is important, but can only be effectively achieved with open communication. Make sure team members take the time to listen and respond thoughtfully to one another. Now get planning.


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