What Happens At A Sprint Planning Meeting?


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.






2017-03-31T06:20:03+00:00 Categories: Agile, Project Management|

About the Author:

Elizabeth joined CivicActions in 2010 as an Agile Project Manager, leading teams of developers and designers through successful digital projects for nonproft and government clients. Her impeccable attention to quality and enthusiasm for human connection propelled her to become Director of Professional Services in 2014. In this role, she oversees hiring, business development, team leadership, client relationships, and thousands of small details per day — all while helping team members remain present and productive.

Elizabeth excels at facilitating change, encouraging growth, and empowering people. She brings an aura of confidence and balance to even the most complicated projects, inspiring her teams to problem-solve and collaborate until victory is achieved. She has served on a myriad of projects for CivicActions clients such as the Department of Defense, the City of Los Angeles, C2ES, Denver Public Library, EatFresh (San Francisco Human Services Agency), FosterClub, GlobalMDP Program (Columbia University), Netpop, and SACNAS.

As a certified ScrumMaster, Elizabeth is passionate about spreading the positive impact of agile project management in public sector organizations. She helped establish and expand Agile Government Leadership (AGL), a community powered network of agile professionals working to increase user-centered, iterative processes in government. She collaborates with the AGL working group to provide resources, arrange partnerships, host events, and facilitate conversation so agencies can be empowered to start using agile methods. Elizabeth has also moderated and spoken at a number of events across the country on the topic of agile government.

Before joining CivicActions, Elizabeth served as Director of Project Management for the software company Casting Networks, where she helped form the PM and QA groups, along with introducing and implementing agile methodologies.

Elizabeth holds a BFA from Wayne State University and lives in the Bay Area with her husband and young daughter. She appreciates the flexibility of working full time from home, hanging out with her kiddo during lunch breaks, and practicing yoga for mental balance and physical health. Elizabeth also enjoys reading the funnier side of the internet or getting outside with her family — being in California, this means the beach and the mountains.