Everything You Ever Wanted to Know: Sprint Planning Meeting Best Practices

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Mar 2, 2022
Updated on
May 23, 2022
Table of Content

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 sprint planning best practices you need to know about. 

15 Sprint Planning Best Practices

Below are the top 15 sprint planning best practices to help your planning session hit all the right notes, time and time again! 

Before Session Best Practices

1. 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). 

2. Have an agenda and roadmap ready 

As with our #1 sprint planning best practices tip, having an 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. 

3. 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! 

4. Ensure the meeting is organized

It’s the Scrum Master’s responsibility 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). 

In-Session Best Practices

5. 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. 

6. 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. 

7. 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).

8. Subtasks

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. 

9. 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.

10. 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. 

11. 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. 

12. 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. 

13. 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. 

14. 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. 

15. 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.

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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