5 Tips for Effective Sprint Planning

cost management schedule management scope management Nov 29, 2020
5 Tips for Effective Sprint Planning

Effective sprint planning is essential for the success of any agile project.  The agile project manager should ensure every iteration delivers the highest possible value to customers to stay true to agile values.  Without effective planning, the team will not start the sprint with a shared understanding of the work.  As a result, the team may defer user stories' implementation and waste time without knowing the appropriate work approaches. Some work may need to be discarded, and limited value may be delivered to the customer.

Here are 5 tips for more effective sprint planning:

  1. Develop a sprint tagline or theme reflecting a goal. For example, one sprint for developing a construction project may be dedicated to making the penthouse suite of a building habitable. The sprint tagline might be "A move-in ready penthouse."
  2. Prioritize the implementation of stories that meet the goal. The result of the example sprint (or multiple, successive sprints if more than one is needed) should be a completed penthouse.  Much of the remainder of the building may be unfinished, but the goal is clear.  The owner can immediately start leasing a part of the building.  The team will commence the sprint with a goal, a shared understanding of work to be accomplished, and in the end, the customer will receive the designated value.
  3. Validate estimates. While agile estimates are often relative estimates based on complexity and the amount of work to be performed, they can still be validated. One easy-to-use method is to engage planning poker for the estimate and then validate it with tee shirt sizing.  For example, let's take a planning poker result for a task as 8 story points.  If an independent team believes this to be an XL in tee shirt sizing, the estimate should probably be reconsidered.
  4. Don't forget the need for support and critical bug fixes. When the penthouse elevator breaks down, you will need to call in support or pull someone from the team to fix it.  Two approaches are possible: have a separate support team or leave a percentage of the sprint free for these activities.  In some cases, having a separate support team may be more expensive. Still, it ensures more people know how to support the project and allows the development team to focus on the sprint.  
  5. Effectively apply the "definition of done" and WIP Limits. Be sure that all user stories have clear acceptance criteria, and the team knows what has to be completed for a task to be considered "done." It is also important to make periodic adjustments to the work in progress (WIP) limit to ensure the sprints are "right-sized."  The results of the previous sprint or sprints and their retrospectives will inform this decision.

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