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The Planning Meeting is held at the start of a Sprint. A Sprint is an Iteration of Work to be accomplished during the Agile Project. Unlike other Ceremonies, like the 15 minute Daily Stand-up Meeting, the Sprint Planning Meeting is much longer. The Sprint Planning Meeting requires the Scrum Team to explore the prioritised Work for the Sprint in detail. The Development Team perform Effort and Time Estimations. All the Team members are involved in these Estimations. Through this, the Planning Meeting both assists in Building Team and Collaboration.

The Development Team also improve the ability of each Team member to accurately determine the Complexity of User Stories. They also gain knowledge of the time needed for Tasks. Like all Scrum Ceremonies, the first Planning Meeting carries the Highest Risk. Following this first meeting Confidence levels improve with each Iteration (or Sprint).

The Participants in the Sprint Planning Meeting

The Sprint Planning Meeting typically has the following individuals:-.

  • The Product Owner. The Business Representative and the steward of the Product Backlog. The Product Owner will explain what the Agile Project is and what it is not. The content of the Product Backlog has already been Prioritised by the Product Owner. It is expected that the Development Team will pick some, if not all, of the Highest Priority Stories. Selected Product Backlog items are used to form the Sprint Backlog.
  • The Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is the Coach for the Scrum and the authority on how Scrum Works. They play an active Role in how the Meeting is carried out and for the length of time. They do not have a say in which Tasks ought to be selected for the Sprint Backlog.
  • The Development Team. The Development Team select the Work items to move from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog. They need to select just the right amount of Work for a successful Sprint.
  • Other guests. Often other Stakeholders may be invited to attend as observers, however this is not the standard.

The Objectives of the Sprint Planning Meeting.

There are 2 primary outputs from the Sprint Planning Meeting.

The Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal is a short-term Goal. The goal is limited to the expected outcomes of the Sprint which is being Planned. These goals must be lined up with the overall Project Goal and the end product. This goal is also based upon what the Deliverable will be from the Sprint.

The Sprint Backlog. This is a Manageable portion of Work to be uplifted from the Product Backlog. Items ought to be chosen based on their Priority. The Highest Priority Items are the most Complex and Risky Items. These items add the maximum value to the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). These items form part of the expected end result of the Scrum Project. Tackling Work based on priority ensures that the developed product is always delivering maximum value and minimising risk. This Development will minimise Project Risk and increase Team understanding once they are “Done” (or effectively finished, in Scrum Terminology).

Estimating Complexity – Planning Poker.

In a typical Development Team, there are varying levels of experience, which means that difficulty is in the eye of the beholder. An experienced team member might consider a User Story to be of medium Complexity, while an unskilled member might believe it is of high Complexity. To democratise the Planning Process, “Planning Poker” is often utilized.

A card deck is offered to each Development Team member, with a number sequence, which might be from 1-10 or a Fibonacci Sequence (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, etc). Each member chooses the card Value which they think most fits the User Story’s difficulty. They place this card face down, and all team members reveal their cards at the same time. The average of all the card Values will figure out the number of Points of difficulty of the User Story. This outcome does not Measure time or the Effort of a particular member, but is a basic, neutral Estimation. The total variety of Points for the Sprint Backlog is called the Velocity and is an indication of what Work can be Done in a Sprint by Complexity, not time.

There is likewise a possibility that the Story being examined is too Complex. If this is the case then the User Story may needs to be Broken Down into smaller sized Stories.

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Evaluating Tasks.

Tasks are activities within a User Story and should have a duration of no more than 6-8 hours. This is because the Daily Stand-up Meeting discusses what Tasks were accomplished the day before and which will be Done today. This ensures that each Developer completes at least one Task per day. Assigning hours to Tasks gives some idea of time to be taken. The primary purpose however is to establish a Steady Workflow. Sometimes Task Estimation is Done in a separate Meeting, but ideally it should be completed within the Planning Meeting.

Other Benefits of the Sprint Planning Meeting.

The Planning Meeting is convened to meet the two objectives described above, but it brings additional Value to the Project. Firstly it helps in Building the Team. This is of particular benefit ,when the Project is new. Secondly, it Facilitates Collaboration, where everyone participates in Valuing the Stories.

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Where a Team is new, this will be a few steps forward on the Road to Team Maturity. The ability to Estimate what Work can be Done in a single Sprint may be off the mark in the first Sprint, but the ability to Estimate will improve with each Estimation. This is usually the longest Scrum Ceremony, taking up to 8 hours. It is invaluable in contributing to a successful Project.

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