The Sprint Planning Meeting is the first meeting to kick off the sprint. It is attended by the ScrumMaster, Development Team and the Product Owner, along with interested and invited stakeholders. The meeting is time boxed to 8 hours, so it’s important to gather first thing, usually on a Monday morning. The Product Owner comes prepared to the meeting with the Product Backlog organized and ordered. These can be in the form of user stories and tasks, or just a list of requirements.

Here is a rough outline of the agenda for a Sprint Planning Meeting:

  • The ScrumMaster introduces everyone on the Development Team and their roles. 
  • The Product Owner outlines her goals for the sprint, what she would like to see accomplished. 
    • She may also provide details from stakeholders about why these goals have been prioritized. 
    • There is an opportunity for the team to ask questions and get clarity on the goals.
  • The Product Owner will review the Product Backlog with the team and explain the user stories or tasks that are ordered the highest. 
    • The Development Team will ask questions about the scope of each story so that they may break them into tasks later on.
  • After completing the review and explanation of the user stories, the Product Owner is free to leave, with the understanding that she is available all day for more questions.

In the second part of the Sprint Planning meeting the Development Team works together to break out and estimate tasks. For each user story there may be several associated tasks. The team will arrive upon estimates for these tasks so that they may plan to accept a reasonable number of tasks given the time available in the sprint.
One technique some teams use to facilitate estimating is “game” called “Planning Poker” in which a number is associated with each task to indicate how big or small it is.

Usually the team will look at the highest ordered tasks first and determine how many will fit into the sprint. Then they may skip over some higher estimates to fit in some smaller estimated tasks that are ordered lower, with the goal of filling up the time of the sprint (sort of like bagging groceries). These decisions can be negotiated with the Product Owner, keeping in mind that the team is the only one who can decide what can be accomplished in a sprint.

At the end of the Sprint Planning Meeting the team will have developed the Sprint Backlog. This includes the plan to deliver all the tasks outlined during the meeting for the prioritized user stories. In the latest rules released by the Scrum Alliance (the organization that certifies ScrumMasters), the Development Team is responsible for creating a forecast of the work it believes it can accomplish. In finalizing the Sprint Backlog, the ScrumMaster will help the team determine what they are likely to be able to accomplish based on the velocity of previous sprints – how much backlog was completed – as well as team member availability during the sprint. As with all forecasts, this one may shift, and the team can update it during the sprint.

At the end of the Sprint Planning Meeting, the team has identifying all of the tasks that they forecast can be accomplished in the sprint. The following day, the team presents the Sprint Backlog to the Product Owner and begins work!

 

This is the fifth in a series of posts about Scrum. For the first, please see The Three Elements Of Scrum.