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Sprint Planning Meetings: What Happens Before, During, and After

Here’s how to get your team to scheme up a plan to hit your sprint goals. A few tips, tricks, and a sprint planning meeting template just for you!

Sprint planning meetings are one of the four ceremonies conducted as part of the Scrum framework – followed by daily scrums, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives.

In this guide, we’ll cover what sprint planning is, the benefits of running these meetings, and the steps that should take place before, during, and after of sprint planning meetings in order to successfully select a set of backlog items. Saving the best for last, we’ll leave you with a sprint planning meeting template so that you can try the method to see if it works for you and your team.

1 What is sprint planning?

In a classic sprint planning meeting, your product owner, project manager, scrum master and development team come together to discuss what they can deliver to meet their sprint goal and how they’ll deliver that work. This helps estimate the work that lies ahead and set your team up for success. This all starts with looking at the sprint backlog and creating action items.  

The reason why teams engage in sprint planning is to define what can be delivered in the upcoming sprint and how the whole scrum team will work together to achieve the sprint goals. Our friends at Atlassian explain sprint planning really clearly, highlighting: 

“In scrum, the sprint is a set period of time where all the work is done. However, before you can leap into action you have to set up the sprint. You need to decide on how long the time box is going to be, the sprint goal, and where you’re going to start. The sprint planning session kicks off the sprint by setting the agenda and focus. If done correctly, it also creates an environment where the team is motivated, challenged, and can be successful.” 

2 Who is involved in a sprint planning meeting? 

  • Scrum Master: facilitates the meeting
  • Product Owner: clarifies backlog items and acceptance criteria
  • Agile team: defines the effort necessary to meet the sprint commitment
  • It’s important that you get the invite right for your sprint planning meeting. Derek Huether, a Sr. Solutions Engineer at Atlassian, wrote a comprehensive article for Leading Agile, in which he shares: 

“Sprint planning is a collaborative effort involving a ScrumMaster, who facilitates the meeting, a Product Owner, who clarifies the details of the product backlog items and their respective acceptance criteria, and the Entire Agile Team, who define the work and effort necessary to meet their sprint commitment.”

Now that we know who’s on the invite list for this kind of meeting, we can get into the purpose of running a sprint planning meeting and the value that this session adds to your upcoming sprint. 

3 What are the benefits of sprint planning meetings?

There’s a few reasons why you should run a sprint planning meeting. First, it’s a great way to identify the responsibilities of each team member over the course of the next sprint and how the team can best collaborate to achieve collective organizational goals. It’s going to give your team a lot more confidence to feel “in the know” in terms of what they’re supposed to deliver and what their teammates are delivering themselves. 

Sprint planning meetings bring alignment and create buy-in from your team because they decide as a collective how much work will be completed during a sprint. It’s empowering to feel in charge of your own work and by being involved in these decisions, your team members will feel more engaged.

Sprint planning meetings also provide a reference point for measuring velocity. According to Scrum Inc., measuring velocity is a key metric in scrum and refers to understanding how much your team can accomplish over the course of a sprint:

“Velocity is a key feedback mechanism for the Team. It helps them measure whether process changes they make are improving their productivity or hurting it. While a Team’s velocity will oscillate from Sprint to Sprint, over time, a well-functioning Scrum Team’s velocity should steadily trend upward by roughly 10% each Sprint.”

4 How to run a sprint planning meeting

Before the sprint planning meeting

1) Backlog prep:

Before the actual meeting, make sure that your product owner has prepared all the items in the backlog. This task takes a significant amount of time and the output is really important to plan a successful sprint. The product owner should understand the details on each item so that they can explain or clarify any questions that the rest of the team might bring up. 

2) Look at team’s availability

This one seems like a no brainer, but check out your team members’ availability and identify exactly how much time each person has to focus on the work involved in the next sprint.

3) Create a meeting agenda

Make sure you have a meeting agenda to send out to your team. Scroll down to save our sprint planning meeting template so that you can test it out yourself.

During the sprint planning meeting

1) Remind the team of the big picture or goal

It’s really important that you articulate why you’re meeting to plan this sprint. You should define the goal that you’re working towards clearly, with attainable steps to get there. If people understand the purpose of the sprint planning meeting, they’re going to apply more effort in attaining company goals as a collective.

2) Address known issues and concerns:

There are probably some issues or concerns that have come up in the last sprint. Be sure to address these hiccups so that you can avoid them in future sprints and come together to figure out a feasible solution. 

3) Use user stories to describe the backlog items and add clear, measurable results:

It’s a good idea to use your user stories to define results. In a recent article by Atlassian, they communicate why user stories are effective in resolving issues and driving results: 

“User stories are one great way of describing the work from a customer point of view.  User stories re-focus defects, issues, and improvements on the outcome the customer is seeking rather than the observed problem.”

Once your product owner and your team have used the user stories to look at the backlog items, they can identify and define clear and measurable results that you’ll work towards as a group. 

4) Estimate what can or cannot be done in the sprint

Not everything is possible, and that’s okay. Think about what simply isn’t going to happen by allowing each team member to look at who will own what responsibility. Estimate the items to see how many can be selected for the upcoming sprint, staying realistic and making sure that your goals are attainable (and time friendly!). 

End every meeting knowing who is doing what, by when

Accountability is at the heart of high-performing teams. With Fellow, your team can assign action items in real-time and automatically carry-forward incomplete action items to the next meeting.

manage meeting tasks and action items

After the sprint planning meeting

1) Check in with the team at your daily standup meetings

Check in with the status of items at your daily standup meeting. Identify who’s working together on some of the user stories and who should team up to tackle certain items. This is going to keep the whole team in the know and on track to meet goals within specific time restraints. 

2) Ensure that the product backlog items are ordered to allow the team to pick up work if they deliver on the sprint goal early

It’s important that the backlog is ordered so that your team can see what comes next and if they have the capacity to take it on. Because each task is organized by value, it’s easy to see what needs to be completed next. 

5 Sprint planning meeting agenda template

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t fret. Fellow has created a sprint planning meeting agenda template so that you don’t skip a beat with what to discuss. This meeting agenda template is going to keep you and your team on track to achieve your sprint goals. It includes the following headlines:

  • Last sprint
  • Backlog
  • Sprint goal
  • Team availability
  • Backlog items

Before you go…

Sprint planning meetings are vital to the output of your agile team. They help your team stay on track, identify potential issues, collaborate with one another and work collectively towards larger, overarching goals. Put simply, and according to Scrum Guides in their Scrum 2020 Guide

“All the work necessary to achieve the Product Goal, including Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective, happen within Sprints.” 

Because what happens over the course of a sprint is so important, it’s really going to help you to organize a meeting that defines what it is that can be delivered in the sprint and how your scrum team will work together to achieve the upcoming sprint goals.

You know it’s time to run a sprint planning meeting with your agile team when you have a backlog of work and are dedicated to achieve a successful product outcome. If you’re already using some agile processes to get your work done, then this is the next step for you.

As always, it’s a pleasure seeing you on the Fellow blog. We hope that this was helpful. If it was, be sure to pass it on to a friend or colleague. Until next time!

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Kate Dagher

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