How to Run Sprint Planning Meetings During Holiday Times

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Feb 20, 2023
Updated on
Apr 30, 2023
Table of Content

The holidays can present unique challenges for businesses, especially when it comes to planning meetings throughout a Sprint duration.

In the Scrum methodology, Sprint Planning follows a specific timeline, and teams must come together to ensure tasks are completed effectively and on time. This can easily become a challenge during the holidays when many people have other commitments.

Poorly run meetings are the last thing we need. In fact, a whopping 67% of meetings fail to achieve their objectives. Still, all is not lost.

For Sprint Planning to be successful during the holidays, sprint goals and objectives must be clearly understood, as well as a plan for achieving them. With careful planning and thoughtful discussion, teams can ensure a successful Scrum Sprint cycle even during this busy time of year.

This article will take you through strategies to keep your organization’s Sprint Planning meetings productive and effective throughout the holiday period.

What Is Sprint Planning?

According to the Sprint Planning guide, this is the first of five time-boxed events in Scrum. Sprint Planning is a collaborative process where team members decide which tasks they will work on in their Sprint. The length of a Sprint in Scrum usually varies from two weeks to a month.

During this meeting, everyone gets an opportunity to contribute ideas and prioritize tasks to commit to during the upcoming Sprint. The primary goal of Sprint Planning is to determine what should be accomplished during each time-boxed period of development.

The team reviews its backlog—typically user stories or features—and decides which ones will be completed within the sprint. They then break these tasks down into smaller, more manageable chunks that can be completed in a shorter amount of time.

This helps to ensure that all tasks are on track and achievable within the allotted timeframe. By following Sprint Planning best practices, meetings can run efficiently and without waste of time.

Why Is Sprint Planning So Important?

Sprint Planning is an essential part of the Agile project development process. It helps to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding goals and objectives for a given Sprint, as well as providing guidance for developers in order to keep projects on track.

Sprint Planning meetings also serve as a forum for collaboration to discuss issues and come up with solutions. Essentially, the primary purpose of Sprint Planning is to establish what tasks should be completed during a particular Sprint. 

Since most Agile teams work in two-week sprint increments, it's important that everyone involved understands what needs to be done and when.

How to Run Sprint Planning Sessions During the Holiday Time

As a Scrum team, managing Sprint Planning sessions during holiday time can be tricky. By knowing the best practices to follow, your team can still meet its objectives while taking advantage of the season's spirit of celebration.

1. Plan ahead and avoid holiday periods if possible by understanding everyone's availability

For teams to stay organized and understand everyone's availability, they must communicate effectively. This means everyone, including stakeholders, product owners, and the dev team.

Once each team member has provided their availability, the times that work best for everyone should then be compiled into an organized list or calendar so all stakeholders can see what options are available. This will help teams quickly identify the ideal time for Sprint kickoff.

2. Make sure everyone is physically present (but you can always run it remotely)

When it comes to Sprint Planning sessions, it's essential to make sure as many people are present as possible. During holiday time, running a Sprint Planning session remotely can also be beneficial.

Everyone's presence makes it easier for everyone to understand the team's goals, objectives, and tasks and helps ensure that everyone has a say in Sprint decisions.

Furthermore, "physical" presence enables questions and concerns to be addressed right away, rather than waiting until after the holidays when communication may not be readily available or timely enough to resolve issues.

To ensure Sprint Planning sessions don’t become overwhelming and dreary during the holidays, ensure that you are prepared with these 400+ Holiday Icebreaker Questions that your team will find engaging to facilitate their discussions. 

3. Be aware that team members may take additional time off around major holidays

In Sprint Planning sessions during the holiday season, keep in mind that team members may take additional time off around major holidays, such as Christmas, New Year's, and the Fourth of July.

This could mean that some key team members may not be available for certain meetings or tasks related to Sprint Planning if they have already taken extra days off.

It is therefore critical to plan accordingly and try to accommodate any extra requests from team members who wish to take additional time off around holiday periods.

4. In a scaled environment, consider what other teams are doing. Should you try to align with them?

When planning a Sprint during the holiday season in a scaled environment, consider how other teams are approaching their work and if aligning with them makes sense. Due to limited resources or personnel changes during this time, team dynamics could be affected.

For example, if you also need the QA team during Sprints, you should also keep track of their availability. Some teams may choose to take an extended break over the holidays, while others might opt to continue working as normal.

If your team falls into the latter category, then it could be beneficial for you to reach out and coordinate with these other teams where possible so that everyone can benefit from each other's ideas and progress. 

This could range from sharing strategies and techniques to exchanging resources or even collaborating on sprint tasks.

5. Remember to focus on outcomes over output

The holiday season can be hectic, and it's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. During this time, the output may be less than usual, so focusing on outcomes is advisable.

This means that instead of diving into the details of what needs to be done each day or week, you should focus on the big-picture goals and how they fit into the overall project plan. Be sure to acknowledge the team if you're still adding value as a result of the Sprint and reinforce that you're making progress.

By focusing on outcomes instead of output, you will ensure that your team is able to stay focused on their tasks and make progress towards your goal, even when faced with increased distractions due to holiday festivities. 

How Can GoRetro Help?

The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration, but it doesn't mean that serious work needs to be put on the back burner.

By using Sprint Planning best practices during this time, teams can stay organized and productive throughout the duration of the Sprint while still enjoying their well-deserved break.

Take Sprint Planning meetings to the next level with GoRetro, the ultimate Agile retrospective tool. You can also prepare the team for the upcoming Sprint with GoRetro Planning through comprehensive, data-driven Sprint Planning exercises.

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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