Scrum Rules: Sprint Planning Starts Each Sprint

June 2, 2020
5 minute read

Sprint Planning is a time-boxed meeting which marks the start of the Sprint and is the opportunity for the Scrum Team to discuss what they will build during the Sprint and how they will build it. The focus of the meeting is on choosing a goal for the Sprint (usually a combination of Product Backlog Items and action items which emerge from the team’s Retrospectives) and then decomposing that goal into a more detailed list of tasks (the Sprint Backlog). In Sprint Planning, choosing who will do the work is strongly discouraged.

The value of Sprint Planning comes at three levels:

  1. First, setting a concrete goal helps with team cohesion and enables high-performance teamwork;
  2. Second, the planning activity helps set expectations with stakeholders and develop a team’s understanding of its own capacity;
  3. Third, the time set aside for planning gives the team a chance to think systematically about how to respond to feedback from the previous Sprint.

Many undesirable patterns emerge in environments where Scrum is not well understood or where a team is not committed to the Scrum framework. Below are examples and possible remedies:

  1. If time is spent during Sprint Planning to discuss who will perform certain tasks in the Sprint Backlog: The team is not yet self-organizing and cross-functional and must stop assigning tasks.
  2. If time is spent during Sprint Planning to estimate tasks: Remind the team that Sprint Planning is not meant to create a prescriptive plan; remind stakeholders that time spent estimating is time not spent building and the primary measure of progress is “Done” product (not hours-worked). The focus of the event is to discuss implementation options so as to rule out inappropriate designs and to create common understanding about how the Sprint Goal will be achieved.
  3. If Sprint Planning consists of converting prescriptive requirements documentation into tasks (graphic design composites or business/functional requirements documents): The team is not yet self-organizing and relies on direction from others outside the team; moreover, design decisions made prior to the start of a Sprint are conjectural and therefore disposable. The team is likely to uncover information during implementation which was unknown to the authors of said graphic designs and/or requirements documents, thus the effort spent creating pre-implementation documentation is often ill-informed waste.
  4. If the Sprint includes other formal planning events (such as “Backlog Refinement Meetings” or “Estimation Parties”): These events are most often evidence that an organization is prone to excessive pre-planning. These events can be stopped by educating stakeholders to understand both the purpose of the official Sprint events and the benefits of empiricism.

In general, it is helpful to remember that Scrum is meant to be used in complex product work, and that in complex environments, planning is mostly waste.  This is a change in mindset that many find challenging.  A Scrum Master continually reminds the team and the stakeholders about the implications of complex work to help with this change in mindset. Read this article for more information about complexity and planning.

Everyone has to [participate] in … Sprint Planning to start [the] Sprint

The Sprint Backlog is the set of Product Backlog items selected for the Sprint, plus a plan for delivering the product Increment and realizing the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Backlog is a forecast by the Development Team about what functionality will be in the next Increment and the work needed to deliver that functionality into a “Done” Increment.

The Sprint Backlog makes visible all of the work that the Development Team identifies as necessary to meet the Sprint Goal. — The Scrum Guide.

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Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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