Easy but effective tips for a better Sprint Planning, part 1

Easy but effective tips for a better Sprint Planning, part 1

“The work to be performed in the Sprint is planned at the Sprint Planning. This plan is created by the collaborative work of the entire Scrum Team.

Sprint Planning is time-boxed to a maximum of eight hours for a one-month Sprint. For shorter Sprints, the event is usually shorter.”

At the end of the sprint planning the following should be true:

  • A sprint goal exists, crafted by the scrum team.
  • A sprint backlog exists, selected by the scrum team
  • Work is planned for the first days of the sprint, in units of 1 day or less

Quite often, sprint planning tends to be driven by a few key developers.  This might be ok depending on the team’s performance but in struggling teams this leads to gaps in the sprint plan.  This prevents a meaningful inspection during the daily scrum, and sprints will fail.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, try the following:

Once the product owner explains the objective of the sprint, hand each member a pen and a sticky note. Give 15 minutes for the team to answer the following 1-2-4-ALL question:  “List the product backlog items that match the sprint objective?”.   Once they are finished, ask the team another 1-2-4-ALL “Using your expected velocity, which of stories listed fit in the sprint, and what do you recommend the sprint goal is?”.  Again give 15 minutes.  This can be quite difficult the first time, and if the team runs out of time, do not allow the “all” stage to continue.  Instead, do a new iteration of 1-2-4-ALL.

Finally, use again 1-2-4-ALL to ask: “For the sprint items starting, what are the tasks and how long will each one take?”.  Give 15 minutes per sprint backlog item.  During the All phase I might ask “Agree on any important deadlines within this sprint item”, especially in instances when there is 1 tester in the team and the team isn’t cross functional.

For those unaware of 1-2-4-ALL, it works as follows:

Hand everyone in the team a pen and a sticky note.

Give each person one minute to each think about a question.  Make sure they all understand the question. Once they start mulling it over, do NOT allow them to confer with each other. Have each team member write their answer on the sticky note.

When they‘re done writing, get them to form pairs and compare answers. Give them one to two minutes.

Then, make two groups of four, again comparing answers and ask them to take note of any differences that arise. Have the groups see if they can get on the same page.  Give them 4 minutes.

Lastly, make one large group, with everyone discussing together, until the entire team agrees on an answer.

Using 1-2-4-ALL in sprint planning like this removes a lot of dysfunction that can occur in the daily scrum.  Since the team has more knowledge on all the tasks the daily scrum becomes a much more informative discussion. The complete team had equal input in sprint planning, increasing the chances of finding mistakes. Lastly, by keeping the team members exposed to each other’s tasks, knowledge is spread.  That might not sound like a big deal, but the more they repeat this, the more they stand to learn about each other’s work.  The more they learn, the less they have to learn to become cross functional.

A lot of the time, this is where sprint planning ends.  A print plan exists, and 60 to 90 minutes have been used.  You may decide that your planning is over and thats ok.  However, if you are finding that the team gets badly delayed by external factors there is more you can do,

Part 2a shows how to avoid impediments & Part 2b shows how to add resilience.

%d bloggers like this: