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Sprint Planning in Scrum – A detailed overview

Sprint planning is one of the important yet confusing parts of the scrum framework. Most queries I get from participants of my Scrum Master certification is centered around the sprint planning process, how is it done, who is responsible for it, and so on. In this definitive guide to sprint planning, we’ll take a closer look at what sprint planning is and how you can make the most out of it.

The Scrum framework is a popular approach to project management that helps teams deliver high-quality products on time and within budget. Sprint Planning is the key component of Scrum. It ensures that the team understands what they will be working on during the upcoming sprint.

What is Sprint Planning?

In Scrum, Sprint Planning is a key meeting that takes place at the beginning of each sprint. The Sprint planning meeting is conducted to ensure that the team understands what they will be working on during the upcoming sprint by discussing Who will do it, when it will be done during the sprint and How it will be done so that they get feedback from stakeholders about the work that’s being done by the end of the Sprint. 

The meeting begins with the Product Owner presenting an Objective that can be achieved by a list of potential work items that need to be completed during the sprint. The team then discusses these tasks and decides which ones they are capable of completing in the given time frame. Finally, the team creates a “Sprint Goal & and a Plan,” which outlines exactly who, when & how they will be working during the sprint.

As per the Scrum Alliance State of Scrum Report 2017-2018, 86% of scrum teams hold a Sprint planning meeting prior to a Sprint.

The goal of Sprint Planning is

  • To help team members identify the tasks that need to be completed during the sprint. To assign those tasks to specific team members. 
  • To get feedback and inputs from stakeholders on the work that’s being done. This can help ensure that the final product meets everyone’s expectations.

It’s also important to note that sprint planning is an iterative process, so it may need to be revisited several times throughout the sprint in order to ensure that everyone is still on track.

There are four key steps to Sprint Planning:

  1. The product owner reviews the product backlog and identifies the goals for the upcoming sprint.
  2. The team members review the product backlog and identify the tasks that need to be completed during the sprint.
  3. The team members may estimate or size(ideally, this is best to be done through Product Backlog refinement in Previous Sprints) the time required to complete each task.
  4. The product owner and the team members agree on the tasks that will be completed during the sprint.

Why is Sprint Planning important?

44% of respondents from the 4th Annual State of Agile Marketing Report cited difficulty in managing unplanned work, while 28% found it challenging to follow the frequently changing plan. 

Sprint Planning

Sprint planning addresses common planning challenges in Scrum adoption. It helps

  • Keep your sprint on track and focused with a clear plan
  • Easily adjust plans as needed during the sprint
  • Assign tasks to specific team members for better clarity and organization
  • Gives everyone a common understanding of the goals for the sprint
  • Eliminate wasted effort and confusion
  • Get everyone on the same page
  • Facilitate better communication among team members

As a team, you need to come prepared with data and estimated story points. You can confirm the estimate for all items on your backlog. If you do not have all backlog items at least list all those which are potential candidates for the next sprint. 

Once everything has been agreed upon by everyone during sprint planning, go over the items once again just to make sure all stakeholders are on the same page.

Who is involved in Sprint Planning?

The Sprint Planning meeting is typically attended by the Scrum team and Invited by Others. The Scrum team includes the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and developers. The others may include management, customers, and other key stakeholders that is anyone who has a stake in the work done by the Scrum Team or have a stake in their work.

How is the Sprint planning meeting structured?

During Sprint Planning, the Scrum team will review the product backlog and select the items that they will work on during the sprint. The Product Owner will also provide information on the priority of the items in the product backlog. Once the items have been selected, the Scrum team will create a sprint goal, which is a short-term goal that the team will work towards during the sprint.

After the sprint goal has been established, the Scrum team will create a sprint backlog. It’s a list of items the team has to complete in order to achieve the sprint goal. The tasks in the sprint backlog are assigned to members of the Scrum team.

So essentially, the Sprint Goal is a combination of three things 

  1. Sprint Goal 
  2. List of items plus 
  3. Plan to complete all the list of items in the Sprint.

The Sprint Planning meeting is typically timeboxed to a max of 8 hours irrespective of Sprint duration.

Team capability and velocity

Scrum uses the story points method for the purpose of estimation. Story points are a way to estimate the size of tasks without knowing how long they will take. They’re based on relative sizing, which means that each story point represents an amount equal to or less than one day’s worth of work for someone who has been assigned this task. 

Story point estimates provide sufficient accuracy in systems that may not have direct relationships with the time or effort spent on them, such as unpredictable software development projects where you might need some sort of demo for an upcoming meeting but don’t know how much it’s going to take yet. 

It also helps keep things accurate by forecasting what rate each story would resolve at–so even though there isn’t necessarily one right answer (since everything changes depending upon who does what first), our goal here should always remain to get closer every day towards having all stories finished. 

What are the challenges of Sprint Planning?

One of the challenges of Sprint Planning is ensuring that the meeting stays within the timebox. Keep the meeting focused so that it does not run over the allotted time. Another challenge of Sprint Planning is ensuring that all stakeholders are able to  with all the developers.

How can I make the most out of Sprint Planning?

If you want to run an effective sprint planning:

  1. Make sure everyone understands the scrum framework and knows their roles and responsibilities. 
  2. Keep the session focused and on track by appointing someone to act as a facilitator. 
  3. Collect all the necessary materials—including user stories, task cards, etc.—before starting the session. 
  4. Make sure WHO, WHEN & HOW are identified clearly. Be aware of potential risks and roadblocks that could impact the team’s ability to complete the sprint goal. 
  5. Encourage collaboration and open communication among team members. 
  6. Have a clear understanding of what “done” means for each task before adding it to the sprint backlog. 
  7. Make sure everyone agrees on the definition of “done” before starting work on any tasks. 
  8. Finally, end the session with a review of what was accomplished and identify any remaining items that need to be addressed before starting work on the next sprint.

Where does Sprint Planning take place?

The Sprint Planning meeting typically takes place in a conference room or other meeting space. It is important to choose a space that is large enough to accommodate the entire Scrum team and stakeholders. The space should also be free from distractions so that the team can focus on the task at hand.

When does Sprint Planning take place?

Sprint Planning typically takes place at the beginning of each sprint. It should happen after the review and retrospective meeting of the last sprint. This helps the team to consider all inputs from the previous retrospectives. The exact time and date of the meeting will be determined by the Scrum team.

How long should be the sprint planning meeting?

The maximum limit for a sprint meeting is  8 hours Max. 

Who attends Sprint Planning?

The scrum team attends the sprint planning meeting, which includes the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and developers. The Invited Others may include management, customers, and other key stakeholders.

What is the format of Sprint Planning?

The Sprint Planning meeting typically follows a standard format. First, the Product Owner will review the product backlog and provide information on the objective and a tentative ordered list of the items. Next, the Scrum team will discuss on the possibility of items to be completed and then everyone together establishes a sprint goal. After the sprint goal has been established, the team will create a sprint backlog.

What is the Sprint Backlog?

It’s a list of items that need to be completed in order to achieve the team’s goals. It can be thought of as a “to-do” list, and it can be updated and revised as needed. The backlog is a combination of Sprint Goal, ordered List, and Plan.

Common Pitfalls of Sprint planning

One common pitfall that can occur during Sprint Planning is when the team tries to accomplish too much during the sprint. This can lead to poor productivity and missed Goals. 

Another common pitfall is when stakeholders try to interfere with the work that’s being done during the sprint. This can disrupt the flow of the team and lead to frustration on everyone’s part. It’s important for stakeholders to be aware of what the team is working on, but they should also refrain from trying to micromanage them.

Finally, it’s important for teams to be mindful of the amount of time they’re spending on Sprint Planning. It can impact the amount of work that gets done during the sprint. The team has to find a balance between getting all of the necessary information and moving too slowly.

When used correctly, Sprint Planning can be a valuable tool for Scrum teams. By avoiding common pitfalls and being mindful of the time investment, teams can ensure that they’re making the most out of the process.

What happens after Sprint Planning

  1. The team begins working on the tasks that were identified during Sprint Planning
  2. The Product Owner continues to work with stakeholders to gather feedback and provide updates on the project
  3. The Scrum Master helps to ensure that the team is staying on track and meeting their commitments
  4. The team meets every day for a brief stand-up meeting to update each other on their progress
  5. The team demos their work to stakeholders and collects feedback before the end of the sprint 
  6. If necessary, they begin discussing items  for the next sprint by doing refinement

Conclusion

Sprint planning is a key component of the Scrum framework. It helps ensure that the team has a clear understanding of what they will be working on during the upcoming sprint, and it also allows for stakeholders to provide feedback and provide input on the work that’s being done. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what Sprint Planning is, and how you can make the most out of it. Sprint planning can be very beneficial for both teams and stakeholders alike. It helps keep everyone on track and ensures that everyone has a clear understanding of what is being worked on. However, there are some challenges associated with sprint planning as well. For example, it can be difficult to estimate how much work can be completed in a given timeframe. By taking into account these benefits and challenges, you can make sure to get the most out of your sprint planning meetings.

Ans: A Scrum team should conduct a retrospective at the end of each sprint. This allows the team to regularly reflect on their work and identify areas for improvement.

Ans: There are several metrics that can be used to measure continuous improvement in Scrum, including:

  • Velocity: The amount of work completed in each sprint. Increasing velocity over time can indicate that the team is improving their efficiency and productivity.
  • Defects identified: The number of defects identified in each sprint. Reducing the number of defects can indicate that the team is improving the quality of their work.
  • Cycle time: The time it takes for work to move from start to finish. Reducing cycle time can indicate that the team is streamlining their processes and becoming more efficient.

Ans: There are several ways to encourage continuous improvement in Scrum, including:

  • Encouraging an open and collaborative team culture
  • Providing resources and support for continuous improvement efforts
  • Making continuous improvement a priority and allocating time and resources accordingly
  • Recognizing and rewarding team members for their contributions to continuous improvement
  • Creating a safe and supportive environment where team members feel comfortable proposing new ideas and experimenting with new approaches.

Ans: Yes, continuous improvement can be applied to any area of business or organization. The principles of continuous improvement, such as identifying areas for improvement, involving the entire team, and making small, incremental changes, can be applied to a wide range of industries and functions.

Ans: Continuous improvement is focused on continuously identifying and addressing areas for improvement within a business or organization. Continuous delivery is a software development practice that involves automatically building, testing, and releasing software changes as they are made. While both practices involve continuous processes, they are focused on different aspects of software development.

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