Sprint Planning Meeting: A Definitive Guide (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 1, 2022

Published May 25, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sprint planning meetings are an important step of project or phase initiation, as they can help a team define goals and plan the best way to complete work. As part of the Scrum methodology, these events can benefit project management within any industry. If your company or industry is quickly developing, it may be beneficial to explore Scrum and sprint planning meetings.

In this article, we explain the purpose and agenda of a sprint planning meeting, describe its key benefits to your team and explore tips for holding a successful meeting

What is a sprint planning meeting?

Sprint planning meetings are the first step in coordinating a sprint, which is a length of time solely dedicated to completing a particular project. These meetings involve determining sprint goals, the responsibilities of each team member and an estimated timeline to ensure the completion and delivery of a product by the date a client expects it. Successful sprint planning meetings also establish a work environment that motivates each team member. Because each team is unique, you can customize some aspects of the process to fit your specific needs.

Sprint planning meetings are part of an Agile project management framework called Scrum. The Scrum model allows teams to collaborate without direct instruction or supervision from upper-management personnel.

Related: Scrum vs. Sprint in Project Management: What’s the Difference?

Terms associated with sprint planning meetings

Scrum management systems often contain a set of terms that team members typically understand so they can effectively communicate. Here is a list of shorthand Scrum terms that apply to sprint planning meetings:

  • Product owner: They are the person responsible for managing the product backlog and representing stakeholders.

  • Product backlog: This refers to a list of all elements required to complete a product. A product manager can update this backlog when teams complete tasks or rearrange them according to priority level.

  • Sprint backlog: This backlog is a list of items your team wants to complete during a sprint and the tasks required to do so. Teams usually create a sprint backlog without direct input from the product owner.

  • User story: A user story is an informal description of a product written in the customer's voice and tone. It highlights how a product benefits customers.

  • Story points: These are the numerical values used to measure the challenges of a particular user story, including what materials it requires and how long it might take

Read more: Definitive Guide to Scrum Development

Sprint planning meeting objectives

It's important to conduct a sprint planning meeting that establishes clear expectations for each team member. Consider these objectives common to a sprint planning meeting agenda:

Meeting preparation

It's important to ensure you have all the necessary documents and information while preparing for a sprint meeting. You can refer to the product backlog to determine which items are available to complete and see whether there are any updates. Also, try to decide how long you want the sprint planning meeting to be.

For instance, it's common to dedicate two hours of meeting time for a weeklong sprint. At this stage, it may be helpful to consult with the product owner to receive feedback from stakeholders and review any additional product guidelines.

Related: What Is a Scrum Meeting? Types and Tips

Sprint goals

A sprint planning meeting should first establish its larger goals. Besides the product backlog, you can refer to user stories to develop goals that align with customer preferences. Working together with the product owner, your team can articulate sprint goals in one or two well-phrased sentences. This component is important because stakeholders and other related individuals may want a brief description of your team's goals.

Here are some examples of a sprint goal:

  • Our focus is to implement a new chat service on the website's home page so customers can directly interface with our services.

  • We want to decrease the number of errors on a digital client's site to ensure that customers can correctly input their information.

Related: How To Create User Story Mapping (Plus Major Benefits)

Sprint backlog

Using your goal as a framework, choose the items from the product backlog on which you want to work. It's important to be flexible with each task list so you can adjust items as necessary. For instance, if a particular task has many components, you can separate it into smaller, more achievable steps. Try to complete this document during the sprint planning meeting so you can refer to it during the sprint and future meetings.

You can write your sprint backlog in a spreadsheet or similar format to ensure organization. For example, you could designate goals in the first column, a list of upcoming tasks in the second, ongoing tasks in the third and finished tasks in the fourth.

Read more: What Is a Sprint Backlog? Definition, Benefits and Tips

Completion estimations

It’s important to assess both the difficulty level and the time it may take to complete each chosen task. These estimations can help your team determine the tasks to handle in this sprint and develop a viable timeline for completing these tasks. Accurate estimations can also help your team stay within your budget. Here are several estimation techniques you can use:

  • T-shirt sizing: One technique for estimating a task's required effort is to conceptualize your tasks as small, medium, large and extra-large T-shirts. This can help you visually perceive the range of your tasks.

  • Past sprints: If you've managed previous sprints with the same team, you can use data from those sprints to calculate the time for each task. This method typically requires at least three sets of sprint data to receive accurate results.

  • Three points: You can also use a mathematical formula to determine a potential timeline based on how much time you hope to spend, how much time is excessive and the most likely scenario you can estimate.

Read more: How To Create a Timeline (With Steps, Example and Tips)

Capacity and velocity

It’s essential to consider the capabilities of your team as you assess and make your final decisions about tasks for the sprint. You may include factors such as your team’s total working hours, individual or collective skill sets and rates of productivity. Remember to include all team members in this discussion, as each person may have insight about personal schedule availability or necessary accommodations. They could also share advice on how to increase the team's overall effectiveness. Try to ensure flexibility so you can incorporate any new information or data you learn during the process. 

Related: A Guide to Scrum Teams

Meeting conclusion

Consider using the last part of your sprint planning meeting to ask for any clarifications and make final decisions. It's important to confirm at this stage that every team member understands the goals and tasks of the upcoming sprint. If you decide to focus efforts on different tasks than you initially planned or you want to rearrange the list, you can make a note in the sprint backlog or another document that you're going to address those tasks at the next meeting.

Related: What Is Scrum Project Management? A Definitive Guide

Benefits of conducting a sprint planning meeting

Here are some benefits of conducting an effective sprint planning meeting:

  • Encourages effective teamwork: Sprint planning meetings can help team members develop relationships based on clear communication and trust. Having this bond can increase productivity and accuracy.

  • Sets achievable goals: If you work well as a team and establish structures to receive accurate data, you can better understand the number of tasks you can complete in a specific time frame.

  • Provides opportunities for feedback: Dedicating a certain amount of time to planning a sprint and reflecting on past actions can allow team members to offer any helpful ideas or concerns.

  • Creates a more efficient workflow: Studying data in advance can help you predict concerns or situations that may arise during your upcoming sprint.

Related: What Is a Scrum Sprint Cycle?

Tips for conducting a successful sprint planning meeting

Here are some methods to ensure a successful sprint planning meeting:

  • Avoid confrontational language: As a team works together, it may be helpful to use positive and encouraging language during a meeting, particularly when you create a timeline. This may help instill confidence in meeting deadlines.

  • Moderate the discussion: Developing specific guidelines and rules for discussion before the meeting begins may help optimize your team's time.

  • Schedule training sessions: Since everyone on your team may have different work experiences, you could offer a training session before the sprint planning meeting to ensure that everyone has the same information.

  • Take notes: Although you can record information in the sprint backlog, taking notes allows your team to have a more robust record of what occurs during the meeting.

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