Sprint planning is a team sport.

Sprint planning is a team sport.

Sprint planning is a collaborative process. It is an Agile team sport.  All members of the core team actively participate in the process with the focal point shifting as the process evolves. Mike Cohn describes planning in Agile like an onion – it has many layers. In the overall flow of an Agile project, the sprint planning comes after release planning and is the first step of a sprint. It precedes the daily meeting, which represents a lower level of planning. The basic flow I use for sprint planning is as follows:

  1. The product owner identifies the units of work he or she would like addressed in the sprint that is just initiating.  The product owner uses the prioritized backlog, the team’s velocity, information gathered through consultation with the team and interaction with other stakeholders.  In most mature Agile teams the process of prioritization and grooming of the backlog (which is central to the planning process) goes on constantly.
  2. Based on the list of work units that the product owner identifies, the team develops or reviews the size of each unit.  I am a proponent of story points or quick and early function points for the sizing process. Both processes help teams drive out ideas and assumptions about the unit of work that may not occur until much later in sprint.
  3. The team should make sure the sum of the size of the units of work makes sense based on the team’s velocity.  Said another way, make sure you are not considering more work than is rational to deliver.  The more comfortable a team (product owner, Scrum Master and the development team) becomes with their capacity, the less this step is needed.
  4. After the reality check, the team then breaks down the units of work into tasks and activities, including rough effort estimates. All of the tasks needed to meet the unit work’s acceptance criteria and to address all of the components of the team’s definition of done should be identified in this process.  The estimation process forces team members to consider how much work is required to complete a task.
  5. The sum of the required effort is used as a feedback tool for the team to gauge whether they can commit to the identified units of work.
  6. Have the team review the capacity of each team member.  This is important if team members are committed on more than one project (bad) or if you allow people to go on vacations (good).
  7. Once the team reaches a consensus on whether the work can be done in the time allotted, the team then publicly commits to doing the work.
  8. Draw a burn-down or burn-up chart for the sprint (both are described in Metrics Minute entries) for tracking, and finally get to work!

Sprint planning is a critical process for the team to develop a common understanding of what will be done during the sprint.  Sprint planning is one layer of planning in the overall continuous, collaborative planning process required for an Agile project.

Advertisements