January 24, 2018

Top 3 tips for optimising your Sprint Planning

The sprint planning meeting is essential to your team’s productivity and efficiency.

'The most important thing to bear in mind is that planning is not refinement.' Click To Tweet

Tip 1: Stop refining

If you’re spending time discussing, understanding and reducing uncertainty of items, stop. That’s what product backlog refinement sessions are for. Ensure all items in the product backlog are ready to be worked on (according to your team’s unique definition of ready) for a productive Scrum planning meeting.

Tip 2: Cover all areas of Sprint Planning

Create a checklist out of the essential parts of the meeting:

  1. The Sprint Goal: what is the goal for the sprint? How does it fit into the wider product roadmap?
  2. The Scope: what is the scope of the work? Is it agreed by the whole scrum team and the product owner?
  3. The Strategy: will you break the work down into smaller sized tasks or work on the items as they are? Will you allocate all items to individuals before the work starts or will they pick up work as and when they’re done? Make sure that you have a strategy for the first few days though; anything further is up to your team’s preference.

Tip 3: Mind the Capacity

You know what the work is and you know you can do it but you need to know if you can do it in the time provided. Planned absences, support and maintenance capacity and over/under committing create distractions for the team that could pose a risk to your commitment. Stick to a familiar number of items, maybe a tiny bit more if you’re feeling under-challenged.

Using the 3 tips above, it won’t take you long to get the handle on agile sprint planning to ensure your team development,, and value creation is as strong as it can be. If you have any questions or topics you’d like me to cover, leave a comment below or send me a message through my website. Thanks for reading. See you next time!

Here’s the full transcript:

-Hello, Georg Fasching here, helping you unlock your team’s genius.
In this video, I am focusing on the sprint planning meeting.
This is another video in the series Power of Three where I’m spending three minutes in each video to share my top three tips and encouragement on a particular subject.
And with that, let’s us put three minutes on the clock, starting now.
When it comes to your sprint planning meeting, the most important thing I would like to ensure you bear in mind is that planning is not refinement.
If you are spending time to actually go over product backlog items to discuss them and refine them and to reduce uncertainty and align a team around it, then you’re having a product backlog refinement session, you’re not having a sprint planning meeting.
You want to ensure that your product backlog is in tip-top shape.
There’s another video available in this series about that.
And when we talk about tip-top shape, it means that the top of the product backlog is filled with product backlog items that are ready in accordance with your definition of ready.
Another video available on that in this series as well.
And it’s very, very important to have in place so that you can have an effective sprint planning meeting.
Sprint planning is for planning, not for refinement.
The second thing when it comes to agile sprint planning in your scrum planning meeting, you want to ensure that you cover all the essential parts of the meeting.
So the first one is that you actually have a good sprint goal that the whole team buys into and aligns around how to set good sprint goals.
Anther video available on that as well.
And this should be a tangible leap towards a milestone that you’re currently working on on your product road map.
You also want to ensure that you agree the scope together as a team appropriately as a product owner.
The product owner may very well suggest a number of product backlog items that they believe would be suitable in order to achieve the sprint goal.
However, that is an active dialogue between the product owner and the team because there might be different ways of achieving a sprint goal, and therefore there needs to be a conversation and agreement around it when it comes to deciding which product backlog items are being committed to by the team in this particular sprint.
And the last thing is that you ensure that you spend sufficient time together as a team to work out how to deliver each of the product backlog items.
Some teams break it down into tangible tasks, each product backlog items.
Others just have a general conversation around how to execute on the plan for the sprint.
What is the delivery strategy for the product backlog items that they have committed to?
And the third thing that you want to ensure to have in your sprint planning meaning is that you are very mindful of the capacity that you have in the team.
So firstly, are there any planned absences across the team that need to be taken into account?
What is the supportive maintenance capacity anticipated for the next planning iteration that reduces overall development ability for the cross-functional team?
And when it comes to taking on and agreeing the scope, make sure that you do not over or under commit significantly.
If you have a certain number of product backlog items and efforts that it can deliver in the last three sprints, then stick roughly to that, maybe a tiny bit more.
No point exceeding that by 500% or doubling down on that.
Just creates distraction.
So these are my top three encouragements.
There’s a lot in this one that you can unpick and ensure.
Bunch of videos available to support some of the items that I mentioned as well.
And with that, I would like to thank you very much for the time.
All the best for the practice with your team, and until the next video.
If you found something useful in this video, please share your thoughts in the comments and your ideas for future ones as well.
And please like, share, and subscribe, and until the next video.
Thank you very much for now, goodbye.

About the author 

Georg Fasching

A leadership team development specialist, International Coach Federation - Professional Certified Coach, with global product management experience since 2000, employing Agile & Lean since 2010, Georg Fasching helps digital creative agencies’ leadership teams delight their clients, fulfil their people, and improve their prosperity.

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