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Sprint Planning

September 23, 2016 Leave a comment

This post is meant as a few hints and tips for new ScrumMasters at Sprint Planning.  None of this is meant as this is how you have to do it, but it could be a starting point from which you can inspect and adapt.

Sprint Planning

When I started as an Agile Coach back in 2007, many teams were struggling with Sprint Planning because they were uncomfortable with uncertainty, or the Product Backlog didn’t exist or was in poor shape.  Either of these may result in very long Sprint Planning sessions.  Interestingly I am seeing a lot of very short Sprint Planning meetings these days, where 30 minutes is taken to select items for the Sprint, with the team hardly saying anything, sometimes only 1 person is speaking.  This is very efficient, but kind of misses the point of Sprint Planning.

Objective

  • Agree WHAT we are committing to as a team
  • Plan HOW we are going to meet this commitment

With modern implementations of Scrum, with a well refined Product Backlog (which the team have been involved in refining), that first part might be quite fast.  The second part is what I now see some teams skipping, there is no conversation about how they are going to do the work.  Often this is a symptom of them not really being a team.  So to a few tips for new ScrumMasters:

Have a Goal goal

Many teams struggle here because the top of the Product Backlog is an unrelated collection of items.  Sometimes this is done to make sure the whole team is busy in the sprint based on their specialisms.  If you do this you will never have a real team, and that maybe ok.  Scrum however is a team game, in the pursuit of a cohesive goal, that represents the value we are going to deliver together.  Therefore the first thing you do in planning is decide what you want to achieve in the next Sprint and then select the work that you will need to do.  This is the WHAT part of Sprint planning.  Don’t talk about How until everyone is clear about What.  The goal creates clarity and a sense of purpose.

Get Commitment

Get commitment of the team to the Sprint Goal.  Maybe commitment is a dirty word these days, some people prefer forecast.  However real teams are not afraid of making commitments to each other, not to managers, to each other.  Scrum works when the team decided what they can achieve and hold each other accountable for delivering it.  Therefore they must believe their goal is achievable.  Involve the team in the creation of the goal, that way they have even more skin in the game.

It’s a workshop how

It’s a workshop not a ceremony or a meeting.  Most of Sprint Planning is going to be a technical workshop about how they are going to achieve their Sprint Goal.  If it helps call it a technical workshop, maybe the team knows what that is.  There is nothing worse than everybody siting round a boardroom style table, calling the same tasks out for each Backlog item.  I suppose doing the same thing on different sides of the world is slightly worse.  The team will not be engaged.  As a ScrumMaster ask the team how they are going to achieve their goal and get out of the way.

Be Prepared

Be prepared as a ScrumMaster, but don’t get rigid.  An Agenda can be useful to you and the team, but you will deviate and thats ok, so long as it helps the team.

Don’t touch the pen

As a facilitator, don’t be at the front of the workshop capturing everything on index cards and sticks (or in your tracking system).  Sprint Planning is not where you need to put in your star performance at the centre of the stage.  Think of yourself facilitating at the back of the room, observing what is happening, when the team get stuck that is when you step in with an observation or question to move the team forward.  One rule I have is to never touch the pen, unless it is to hand one to a team member.  In this way the team own it.

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Categories: Agile, Scrum Tags: ,