4 Tips for Effective Sprint Planning

Person writing on a planning whiteboard

For the past 4 months, I've been stumbling through the process of leading a cross-functional team working on a project with tight deadlines. So far, I've been faking it well: my manager thinks I'm doing all right.

Among the things I'm still learning is how to run effective sprint planning sessions. I'd like to share some of my observations below.

Have your user stories ready

For me, sprint planning begins a few days prior to the end of the previous sprint. I'll usually have a meeting with our product owner and my manager.

Delegate story ownership to your team

In a few of my initial sprints, I spent the weekend prior to sprint planning researching several of the more complex user stories, thinking of edge cases, uncovering potential spikes, etc. This led to sprint planning sessions where there was a fair amount of questions and discussions between myself and the product owner with little or no participation from the rest of the team.

My manager (and former manager --- he sat on one of the sprints) provided me with a useful tip: assign user stories to developers for investigation prior to the start of a sprint. This provides a number of benefits:

Use remote planning poker tools

In some of our initial sprint planning sessions, we were using Teams Chat as a way to conduct planning poker. This led to an observation where the first estimate typed in Chat appeared to affect other estimates typed afterwards. Wikipedia describes this as "anchoring, where the first number spoken aloud sets a precedent for subsequent estimates."
To avoid this we've now started using online planning poker tools such as Planning poker online which more closely mirror traditional planning poker with features like the ability to display when someone has cast their vote and a button or link to display all the planning cards.

Keep things moving

Developers like to discuss technical details during planning. Product owners like to provide context and additional background tangential to the stories being discussed.
Team discussions are necessary to arrive at better estimates but its important to remain focused and resist the urge to:


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