As you probably already know, every sprint begins with a sprint planning session.
But these sessions are only as good as what you put into them. And trust us, there’s a lot that could be put into them. it’s all about knowing how to use this time effectively for the best sprint ever (or as close to that as possible).
And so, without further ado, here’s our rundown of all the best detailed tips on how to increase the efficiency of your sprint planning meetings, so you can accomplish all your meeting goals and start the project on a positive note.
18 Sprint Planning Best Practices
Below are the top sprint planning best practices to help your planning session hit all the right notes, time and time again!
Before Session Best Practices
1. Create a Planning Committee
The most important factor in an agile planning meeting is the people attending it. Before scheduling a meeting, the attendee list must be confirmed. The attendee list should can vary from project to project, as you only invite the relevant individuals to the meeting. This practice ensures that the discussion remains engaging and other workplace operations are not disturbed.
You can create a planning committee by doing the groundwork on the project first. Identify the roles and responsibilities required for the project, and invite relevant members accordingly. Depending on the project requirements, you can exclusively ask managerial employees or add executive employees who are directly assigned the task into the mix. This measure can ensure that the meeting concludes faster while ensuring that all the points are adequately discussed.
2. Refine the backlog
The Product Owner should have a refined backlog ready and waiting for the team as a top priority. Without this, the whole sprint planning session could waste countless precious minutes (or even hours) on trying to prioritize user stories (which, while we're on the subject, should be ready and updated with all the necessary information).
3. Have an agenda and roadmap ready
Having a sprint planning agenda and roadmap ready and waiting to go before the actual planning session will save you valuable time and effort, and help you avoid any potential distractions.
4. Sync the roadmap and backlog
It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that both the backlog and roadmap should be as synced as possible before the sprint planning meeting. This will also save countless precious minutes and hours, and allow the team to focus on the important work at hand: actually planning the sprint!
5. Ensure the meeting is organized
It’s up to the Scrum Master to ensure that the team is updated on when and where the sprint planning meeting is happening, and that everyone has what they need to participate (such as a synced backlog and roadmap).
6. Create an Outline
An outline helps you stay on schedule, cover all the points, and facilitate better discussions among the team. You can create an outline by researching the project and inspecting the client's requirements. It can also help keep the meeting to the intended timeframe, and if there seem to be not relevant points that are wasting time, the outline can be referred to and used to guide the conversation back onto Sprint Planning.
In-Session Best Practices
7. Schedule the session correctly
One of the most (if not the most) important sprint planning best practices is to give your sprint planning session enough time. A good way to estimate this is to allow an 8-hour time block per 1-month sprint. So, if your sprints are 2 weeks long, your sprint planning session should be allotted at least 4 hours.
8. Brainstorming with product backlog alignment
The Product Owner will kick off the meeting, detailing the User Stories’ order of priority and how they align with the roadmap.
The Dev team will then start assigning the backlog’s User Stories, and seek clarification if needed.
9. Sprint goal-setting
The sprint goal is one of the most important aspects of the entire sprint planning session. Knowing what the end goal of the sprint is will go a long way in helping the team work backwards to understand how it needs to be broken down, and how it will be achieved.
(Pro tip: One of the most important sprint planning best practices is to have your sprint goal be SMART-focused).
The Product Backlog will likely have a fill of tasks that will need to be broken down into manageable subtasks. One of the top sprint planning best practices is to make sure that each subtask will take no longer than one day to complete per team member.
11. Set velocity targets
Checking past sprints for the velocity rate is up to the Scrum Master, who needs approval from all the team members before setting targets. This will help towards the time estimation of the sprint’s Stories. Can be achieved with a velocity chart.
12. Formalizing Decisions
Any conclusions or objectives set during the sprint planning session need to be formalized - i.e., written down and agreed on. Each team member needs to have access to these conclusions, in order to refresh themselves should the need arise.
13. Pace each team member
Several important sprint planning best practices rely on team member management. Making sure that no single team member has overburdened themselves is important.
14. Be open and communicative
As with other stages of the sprint, being open and communicative with one another is among the core sprint planning best practices.
15. Ensure agreement
Everyone needs to be in agreement in terms of their workload, target velocity and the sprint goal, or any other aspects of the sprint.
16. Keep your eye on the sprint goal
As in life, once there’s a fixed and agreed-upon goal, stick to it (unless some extenuating circumstances creep up!). Should some high priority issue suddenly arise, handle it like a pro: get everyone’s agreement and reprioritize accordingly.
17. Check out historical sprint burndown charts
The best way to confirm whether or not your team is on-track, or whether their velocity is improving, is to check out historical sprint burndown charts. These will give you an overview of potential issues that might creep up time and again, and how to tackle them.
18. Encourage Discussion
Meetings are all about effective communication. This means you must construct the meeting structure to accommodate a flow of ideas between the meeting host and the attendees. You can also send the discussion material and meeting outline to the attendees in advance to prepare themselves and save time during the meeting.
When Should You Conduct A Sprint Planning Meeting?
As stated earlier, sprint planning meetings are held before starting work on a new project. However, to make the meeting more productive, you need to consider a few factors.
An agile planning meeting must include all the relevant personnel. This means all team members that play a role in the project should be present in the forum. For this reason, you need to arrange the meeting at an optimal time when all team members can attend.
In the unfortunate case that you can't find a suitable time for all employees, arrange the meeting in a hybrid format to make sure that all workers are present. This way, you can discuss the ideas in detail and ensure that the entire team is on the same page.
Another factor that you need to consider is the project budget. Schedule a meeting only after the funding for the project has been approved by the key stakeholders. This way, your teams can plan the tasks appropriately and ensure that the cost does not go over the set amount.
The project deadline is another factor that you need to consider before hosting a planning meeting. An agile planning meeting is set as early as possible, as it provides the team with ample time to execute the tasks sensibly.