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Sprint planning 101: What is it & how to plan sprints

A checklist, tips, and templates to get you sprint planning now.
Let’s face it, product management can be complicated when you’re tackling multiple problems under tight deadlines. Between ensuring that your whole team is engaged and understands their role in the product roadmap and the inevitable and unpredictable roadblocks, getting your product from idea to market can be a journey.
Thankfully, the scrum framework and a well-planned two-week sprint can help you and your team produce the necessary results. The following guide will help you understand what sprint planning is and the best practices surrounding it that will bring your team the success it deserves.

What is sprint planning?

Sprint planning is an event in the scrum framework that lays the foundation for what will happen during the sprint. The goal of sprint planning is to set expectations for what the entire scrum team hopes to accomplish during the sprint, establish who has ownership of different aspects of the project, indicate the specific deliverables expected, and detail how the work will be accomplished.
During a sprint planning meeting, the product owner sets the intention of the sprint, and the development team takes the lead on putting together the logistics concerning the who, what, how, and why of what the team will accomplish.

Sprint planning benefits

Planning is essential with any project management duties, but it’s especially important when working within the scrum framework because your team is in a constant state of sprinting.
Without proper planning, teams lose some of the finer details while in a state of relentless goal achievement. It’s the scrum master’s duty to ensure that all aspects of the sprint are planned out in advance so all objectives can be achieved.
Some benefits of sprint planning include:

1. A greater sense of focus.

Breaking up large tasks into manageable chunks makes it easier for your entire team to hone in on what’s most important and solve the problem at hand. This minimizes any potential sprint backlog at the end of the project.

2. Increased productivity.

Projects that follow the agile approach are more efficient and allow for constant improvement, which leads to increased productivity.

3. Fewer quality control issues.

Considering that each sprint goal is defined from the outset, teams are constantly searching for solutions to achieve the project’s objectives. Because every aspect of the project is reviewed immediately, teams are better able to note problems.

4. Improved morale.

Working in a team can be extremely rewarding because it helps connect team members as people and colleagues. When employees know they’re supported and have the support and input they need to accomplish the project’s objectives, they’re more engaged and satisfied with their work which increases morale.

5. Customer satisfaction.

Because customers are acknowledged as active stakeholders during the sprinting process, they are more likely to be satisfied with the project’s outcome.

Sprint planning meeting checklist

So, what happens in a sprint planning meeting, and how do you prepare to take on these kinds of projects? Here’s a checklist of the things you should do to set your team up for success:

Step 1: Create an agenda.

To get the most out of your sprint planning meeting, you’ll need to set an agenda. To set the agenda, the scrum master and product owner will need to collaborate and research the team’s capacity and product backlog items and determine estimated story points.

Step 2: Review backlog items and confirm story points.

Go over your product owner’s backlog and discuss potential story points with your team. Creating accurate story points helps the scrum master create realistic expectations for deadlines and the project budget. Estimates should account for the effort rating for each team member as well as the difficulty of each task. Your discussion should allow space for team members to ask questions and offer suggestions on what they feel is possible during your sprints.

Step 3: Determine your team’s velocity and capacity.

Velocity is the amount of work your team can complete in one sprint. To find your team’s capacity, decide how many productive hours team members can work and multiply by the number of members.

Step 4: Assign task ownership.

Each team member should have a defined role and set of tasks for the sprint. Have an open discussion with your team to determine who is responsible for each task during the sprint. While this part of the meeting will require some negotiation, it’s important to make these decisions in a timely manner, or your meeting could potentially run long.

Step 5: Hold a Q&A session.

End your meeting with a Q&A session to confirm that everyone understands and is in agreement on what the objectives and responsibilities include. Having this conversation will save wasted time on miscommunication and false starts.

6 tips for successful sprint planning

Planning a successful sprint is easy if you’re prepared and understand all the variables that affect the process.
Here are some tips to make your next sprint planning session a success:
Begin with the high-level outlook so you can understand the “why” and “how.”
Create a defined goal for the sprint.
Come to an agreement on the definition of done.
Devise a plan for how the first few days of the sprint will play out.
Involve your team in every aspect of the sprint planning to ensure they’re engaged and understand all the details.
Use what you’ve learned from previous sprints and sprint retrospectives to inform your decision-making process going forward.

Sprint planning templates

Templates are a great way to start your own sprint planning. Here are some useful starting points to help you rock your next sprints.
: An end-to-end project planning doc.
: A hub for organizing your stakeholders, assets, and deadlines in a single place.
: A simple and succinct way to align your team and communicate the goals of your project.
: Keep your team motivated with a set of end-goal visualizations.
: Predict your project’s timeline and manage critical deadlines.
: A 5-step process for assessing—and avoiding—risk.
: Need to make adjustments mid-plan? Here’s a template to help.
: Explore countless other sprint planning docs published by makers in Coda’s Gallery.

Sprint planning FAQs

How long should sprints be?

While sprints can range in duration, a typical sprint lasts for two weeks.

How often should my team have sprint planning meetings?

Teams should meet at the beginning of each new sprint to ensure everyone on the team is in agreement on the scope and objectives before starting the work.

What is the purpose of a sprint backlog?

It provides the scrum team and stakeholders with the necessary transparency into the work that needs to get done during the sprint.

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