Preparation is key to reaching your goals.

Successful and efficient planning of any sort represents the confluence of preparing the work to be planned and proper logistics. Earlier in this series on planning, we reviewed the basic logistics needed for a planning event and defined a simple checklist.  While both are important, preparing the work to be planned requires more effort.  Preparing the work for planning requires knowing the capacity of the team and grooming the work items (stories, requirements, support tickets and/or defects).

Capacity Knowledge:

___ The team knows its productivity or velocity.

___ Knowable capacity shocks are identified and shared with the whole team.

___ The team agrees on a typical level of work item granularity that will be accepted into an iteration.

___ The team has an accepted definition of done.

___ Knowable organizational constraints have been identified.

Knowledge of the team’s capacity includes both productivity or velocity (how much work a team can complete in an average iteration) and any changes to the team’s capacity known for the next iteration (e.g. vacations, maternity/paternity leaves, and changes to team composition).  The combination of the typical level of granularity and the definition of done are basic building blocks for helping the team to plan and execute consistently.   Without capacity knowledge teams with either under or over plan and therefore deliver inconsistently.

The word team is bold in the first item to remind users of the simple checklist that planning is a team effort not the purview of a project manager or Scrum master.

Work Item Preparation:

___  Enough of the architecture and standards have been defined for the anticipated work items to be completed in the iteration.

___  A sufficient amount of work has been groomed for the team to plan.  

Grooming items include (review INVEST):

___ Work items that will be planned tie to the product roadmap (or have a darn good reason to be on the backlog).

___ Potential work items are properly formed and are written understandably.

___ Someone on the team has the background available to describe the work item to the team.

___ Work items are small enough to be completed during the iteration.

___ There are no identifiable dependencies that will prevent the story from being completed. (split to isolate dependencies).

___ Work not completed from previous iterations is identified (stories spanning or escaping an iteration).

___ Work items are testable.

___ All work items have identified acceptance criteria.

___ Subject matter experts (SMEs) for work items are identified with contact details.

Knowledge of capacity informs a team about how much work to plan.  Plan only the work that can be accomplished and a few stretch items.  Planning is significantly easier (and more useful) if the work is prepped before the planning event.  It is emotionally exhausting to try to plan a piece of work only find out no one in the room knows what it is or even can puzzle out what the request means.  This type of failure is easily avoided by taking the time to prepare before you walk into a planning meeting.