what is sprint planning

What Is Sprint Planning? (With Sprint Planning Checklist)

Sprint planning, a key component of Agile project management, involves categorizing work into manageable pieces, prioritizing tasks, and avoiding burnout along the way.

What is sprint planning?

Sprint planning is an Agile project management practice that involves breaking your team’s workload into smaller, weekly (or biweekly) sprints. Think of these sprints as short-term to-do lists for your team. 

Before each sprint, Agile teams host a sprint planning meeting to set goals and expectations. The idea is to use this opportunity to define what the sprint will accomplish and the plan for completing the work.

In Agile methodology, the person running these sprint planning meetings is known as the scrum master. They’ll help ensure that the sprint planning meeting will:

  • Define the objective of the next sprint

  • Determine which backlog items will contribute to the goal

  • Identify any other backlog items that the team will generate as a result of the upcoming sprint

They’ll be tasked with keeping the sprint planning session on track. The goal is to keep these meetings short (under two hours) and only centered around work in the team’s current sprint.

Scrum master and product manager preparing for sprint planning sessions

The importance of sprint planning meeting

Working in sprints helps managers divide a complex project into incremental, achievable tasks. Poor sprint planning can generate ineffective sprints or derail the team by setting unrealistic goals.

Sprint planning meetings are essential to:

Setting a well-defined goal for the sprint

Working in sprints helps teams maintain focus. A sprint with clearly defined plans eliminates potential distractions and keeps the team from feeling overwhelmed about large projects. You can use an online roadmap tool to help.

Prioritizing tasks from the project backlog

Sprint planning also helps you identify low and high-priority tasks. Teams can work together and come to a consensus on what’s most important to accomplish during the sprint.

Providing teams with an effective communication and collaboration platform

Remote teams and large in-office teams can often be siloed. Sprint planning offers a structured platform for communication that ensures each team member is engaged. 

Setting a workflow schedule

A sprint should provide focus, but days off, vacations, and emergencies can interrupt the workflow. Sprint planning considers all of these factors to define realistic deadlines for deliverables and achievable results.

Incorporating flexibility into the sprint

A sprint is more about reaching an objective, than it is about finishing a job. Since sprints encompass pieces of projects, you can still have a successful sprint even if the team doesn't finish everything. The sprint review process can help you determine what work is most important or what needs to be caught up on for the next sprint. 

Checklist to follow for sprint planning

While the point of a sprint is to offer a structured yet flexible framework, a step-by-step checklist can help you better define priorities and goals. This checklist can help keep your sprint planning meeting on track.

1. Develop a suitable meeting schedule

A sprint planning session must include the product owner, scrum leader, and the working team to be effective. Define the sprint planning timebox and determine when all team members are available for planning.

2. Review the product roadmap

Create a roadmap that clearly defines how each task fits into the overall project plan. Before planning a sprint, look at the big picture to ensure your deadlines align with internal and external expectations. 

3. Define the sprint goal

The scrum leader or product owner should set a sprint goal for the start of each meaning. Think of it as a high-level summary of what the sprint will accomplish. If the goal is too unrealistic, vague, or short-sighted, the rest of the team can share their feedback and look in a new direction.

4. Clean the backlog

Once you run a few sprints, you’ll notice backlog items pile up pretty quickly. The scrum leader should lead their team through the backlog refinement process before starting on the next sprint. There may be high-priority tasks to incorporate into the next sprint.

Scrum master and product manager preparing for sprint planning sessions

5. Identify team member estimations

Each member of the Agile team can set estimates or forecasts for each task they need to accomplish. The team should talk through each task and use story points to quantify each team member’s workload. Every estimation should include room for error and time to resolve unexpected issues. 

6. Review and execute

During this walkthrough, the scrum master should point out potential discrepancies and ask questions for clarification. Sprint planning is complete when every scrum team member is prepared for the sprint ahead.

Sprinting forward

Sprint planning is a way to break large projects into achievable tasks that can be accomplished more efficiently. By getting a firm understanding of sprint planning methods and setting achievable goals, you can improve your team's focus and accelerate your progress towards larger goals.

Hubstaff tasks sprint updateWith Hubstaff Tasks, you’ll have a sprint planning tool that makes managing new Sprints easy — even if you're new to Agile. Employees can drag and drop Tasks, set dependencies, and add them to their automated Stand-up. Set up email reminders for comments, assignments, and due dates to keep your team up to date.

Sprint to the finish

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