Logistics Are Part of All Meetings

Planning meetings are not terribly glamorous.  They are, however, an important first step in effectively delivering value for any sprint or increment.  I have developed a simple checklist for preparing for a planning meeting (we will explore a simple process in the near future).  Agile planning events couple the discipline of saying what will be done and then delivering on that promise with the need to embrace the dynamic nature of development and maintenance.

Logistics – Time Boxes:

___ Define the time box to be planned for.

___ Define the time box for the planning session.  

Time boxes help provide boundaries that help teams focus.  The team involved in the planning session should both how long they are planning for and how much time they have to spend planning.  The combination of the two constraints (how much and how long) will help teams keep from getting into too low a level of detail.  Remember to plan only as much work as is needed during the next increment of time and only plan to the level of detail needed to know whether the work can be completed in the increment.

Logistics – Scheduling and Invitations:

___ Invite (as required participants) the whole team (including the product owner(s))

___ Plan and schedule planning sessions based on the team cadence for the length of the effort.

___ Send calendar invitations and block calendars

In a world that is calendar driven, plan when the planning meetings will be and send invitations so that the time is reserved.  All team members are required participants.  Sometimes teams invite subject matter experts (SMEs) when specific information/knowledge needs to be injected.  

Note:  Pay attention and be sensitive to times zones and locations if the team is distributed.

Logistics:  Facilities:

___ Book a room that is large enough to hold the team.

___ Ensure that communications facilities are available and work (if the team is distributed).

___ Provide for food.

___ Ensure everyone has access to the planning tool used by the company in the room planning will occur.

___ Miscellaneous tools (paper, pencils, sticky notes, flip charts, white boards) are available.

The basic tools and facilities for planning vary based on the process used.  That said, Agile planning is a team activity, therefore there are some basics. The basics include being able to hear everyone participating.  Seeing and hearing is better but not always possible. Everyone should be involved in planning, therefore everyone should have access to the planning tool (if being used).  It is not a project manager’s job to take notes and put stories, activities, and tasks in a tool.  I have used a page from mob programming when not everyone has access by having one person key information into the tool at a time.  The logger function rotates every 15 minutes. Finally, hungry, thirsty or rushed participants tend not to be able to focus, feed the team or take a break at lunch time.

Logistics for any meeting can make the difference between success and failure.  The simple planning meeting checklist is useful to ensure that you consider the major logistics components needed for a planning meeting (people, place, tools, and schedule).  On logistics, “oops” should not be a word that is in your vocabulary.

Next – A Simple Checklist for Preparing Backlog Items for Planning