A pair of running shoes, representing sprint planning
What Is Sprint Planning and How Is It Done?
A pair of running shoes, representing sprint planning

What Is Sprint Planning and How Is It Done?

Whether you’re a new developer or a seasoned pro, chances are that you’ve experienced a disorganized and unproductive sprint at one time or another. From unclear deliverables to lackluster communication, there are countless issues that can arise during the execution of a project. Enter sprint planning. 

Sprint planning is a key component to any team working in the Agile world. Continue reading to discover exactly what sprint planning is, its benefits, common challenges, and a free sprint planning meeting template. 

What is sprint planning? 

In the Scrum framework — an approach to Agile management where teams work in cyclical periods of work known as “sprints” — a sprint planning meeting is when your team examines the product backlog and figures out the main goals for their next sprint. This is where the team comes up with a plan to complete backlog items, determine where they’ll start, and map out the next two weeks (or length of the sprint).

A sprint planning meeting usually takes an hour or two, and should take place at the beginning of the week so that the weekend doesn’t interrupt the team’s workflow. 

As for who should attend these meetings, that’s usually: 

  • A product owner: The central stakeholder or a representative.
  • The Scrum master: The person who ensures that Scrum methodology is understood and followed.
  • Development team: The people who’ll be doing the actual work discussed. They can use this meeting as an opportunity to ask questions about any unclear tasks, as well as getting input from the product owners and Scrum master.  

The sprint planning meeting usually follows a two-part structure. The first half of the meeting (also referred to as the “Scope”) will see the team looking at the list of backlog items and selecting the ones they will work on. If your organization uses a tool like Jira, you can even set the urgency of each task within your tool, allowing you to speed up this portion of the meeting. The second part of the meeting consists of figuring out exactly how they will deliver their items. 

The benefits of sprint planning

While sprint planning has obvious benefits, there will always be some challenges when trying to collaborate with a group of unique individuals — as well as trying to organize work in two week cycles. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why these meetings are so effective.

Boosts collaboration

When done correctly, these meetings create a positive and engaging environment where your team is motivated to work collaboratively. Sharing ideas, solving problems, and figuring things out together is a surefire way to bring a team closer. Additionally, your team will get a better idea of who’s working on what. If any issues arise, they can then connect with the responsible team member directly. 

Provides a clear understanding of work 

After planning a sprint, all team members should have a shared understanding of what is being worked on and what is expected of them. This meeting lays out the work and the plan for how that work is going to be completed, leaving little room for misinterpretation. 

Increased ownership of work

As the team has the opportunity to choose and decide on what should be prioritized together, there is a greater sense of pride and ownership over tasks and project management deliverables. Instead of being told what to do, the team is able to work together to make these decisions. 

Avoids burnout 

Since the team, as mentioned above, are the ones selecting the goals for the sprint, it’s much more likely that they’re able to achieve these without extending themselves too much or overworking. They know how quickly they can work, so are less likely to face the stress and burnout that might be experienced if someone else was planning their work.

Pro tip: Look before you sprint

Planning a sprint session is much more difficult with a messy product backlog. That’s where the backlog grooming session comes in. Usually carried out by a product manager or a team lead, grooming sessions usually happen on a monthly basis and are aimed at cleaning up the backlog. Old issues that aren’t relevant are removed, vague requests are clarified, and duplicates are eliminated.

Here’s how it works

Common challenges of sprint planning

Like any process within an organization, a sprint planning meeting has its own set of challenges. Here are some of the most commonly seen issues related to this stage of the sprint. 

Unreal expectations 

When product owners try to accommodate every single request from stakeholders or executives, it greatly diminishes the productivity of the sprint planning meeting. Project managers and product owners must understand that backlog items are prioritized based on a number of factors if sprint planning is to be as effective as possible. 

Disorganized backlog

The backlog is the central source of information when it comes to sprint planning. As an authoritative list for all the work a development team needs to get done, this is where the items for the sprint will be gathered from. However, if this backlog hasn’t been refined prior to the sprint planning meeting, attendees will spend valuable time on this task. Instead, there should be a backlog refinement process that ensures the most important items are brought forward during sprint planning — and any duplicate tasks are reported and removed. 

Unclear goals 

While one of your main goals is to set achievable goals for the sprint, sometimes this doesn’t actually happen. Either too many goals are set, or the established goals are too vague. A sprint goal helps to provide focus, so take the time to set realistic, achievable, and specific goals with your team. 

Too many details 

Don’t get caught up in the details. You don’t need to leave this meeting with every minute of the sprint accounted for, but rather a comprehensive roadmap for all team members to follow. 

Want to make sure you reap all the benefits of your sprint planning meeting without running into too many challenges? Get our free sprint planning template below.

Free sprint planning meeting template 

Look before you run

Organizing a sprint planning meeting can feel overwhelming for even the most seasoned individual. Prioritizing backlog items, calculating team capacity, and working together to devise an achievable plan takes a great deal of skill — and patience. However, with our free sprint planning meeting template and your own dedication and knowledge, you’ll be well on your way to planning effective and productive sprints.