How to (actually) run an effective sprint planning meeting

A step-by-step guide for sprint planning meetings that focus on delivering customer value, building stakeholder confidence, and creating happy teams.

I want better planning meetings!

Ugh, it's Monday again

It's Monday. Sprint planning day.

"How could Monday's get even worse?" You think to yourself.

The team starts trickling into the meeting. You pull up the backlog, hoping that the magic backlog gnomes have prepared work for the team this sprint. After a few minutes you remember that the gnomes aren't real, just a dream.

"Who's driving?" Someone asks.

Yup, that's you. You're navigating this motley crew through the planning storm.

You find the first backlog item.

"I hope this has some acceptance criteria." You wince as you click the link.

Where sprint planning meetings go wrong

Sprint planning is hard. Sometimes it seems impossible.

Most teams don't spend enough time, understand the work, or have a shared understanding of what it means to be done.

Because sprint planning can be so painful we discuss backlog items at a surface level, avoid difficult conversations, and rush to finish and get back to "work."

The most common problems with sprint planning

Here are the most common reasons why sprint planning fails:

  • Our work is not ready for planning.
  • We don't understand or agree on why they're doing the work.
  • We don't have a shared definition or understanding of what it means for the work to be "done."
  • We forget that they're supposed to be delivering customer value.
  • We ignore the fact that we're working inside of an existing system.

Every team I've worked with has struggled with one or more of these problems. Your team probably does too.

Your sprint planning might suck, but it doesn't have to

What if...

  • The team looked forward to planning?
  • You felt like planning was an exciting start to an exciting week?
  • You had answers to all of the questions?
  • You weren't chasing people down for input during awkward silence?
  • All the people who needed to be there were actually there?
  • The team understood why they were doing the work?

What if your sprint planning meeting was effective?

What you'll learn

Effective Sprint Planning is broken down into three sections.

Starting with "Why we plan" to discuss the theory and purpose of the sprint planning meeting.

Then "Effective Planning" to cover practical advice for running a successful planning meeting.

And finally a collection of tried and true "Techniques" that I have personally used to run more effective sprint planning meetings.

Why we plan

In this section, I introduce the principles of effective planning:

  • Come Prepared
  • Understand Why
  • Define Done
  • Focus on Value
  • Think holistically

Effective sprint planning

In this section you'll learn that effective sprint planning means:

  • Having a suitable, known, and guaranteed meeting place.
  • Understanding the purpose of the work.
  • Focuses on adding value for the people using the software.
  • Considering the impact of the work on the current system.
  • Recognizing the impact of the work on outside stakeholders.
  • And much more

Read the sample chapter "Define Done."

Techniques

Here's where I share the best techniques I've tried over the years and in thousands of planning meetings. I explain how the technique came to be, how to use it, and common problems I've had implementing it.

The techniques outlined in this section are designed to be quickly and easily adopted by your team so that you can see immediate results.

The seven techniques include:

  1. The planning checklist
  2. Whole team tasking
  3. Five whys
  4. Time-boxed tasks
  5. Daily feedback
  6. Artistic artifacts
  7. Commitment driven planning

Download the planning checklist.

Who should read this

If you're managing, leading, or just on a team building software using agile methodologies, this book will improve your team.

  • Engineering managers will help align their teams on what matters to the business
  • Scrum Masters will learn new techniques to facilitate more effective planning meetings
  • Team Leads will learn principles for "leveling up" the members of their team and improving their effectiveness
  • Software developers will learn how to build trust with stakeholders

About the book

Effective Sprint Planning is available to download as:

  • ePub
  • Mobi
  • PDF

Return policy

If you're not 100% satisfied with the purchase, or it's not what you were expecting, just reply to the download email within 30 days, and you'll get a full refund. No questions asked.

About the author

A photo of Clayton Lengel-Zigich in 2021

Clayton Lengel-Zigich has spent the last 20 years solving problems with software. As a developer, coach, and product manager he has seen it from all sides. He is seeking continuous improvement and always looking for opportunities to inspect and adapt.