5 Tips to Plan your Next Sprint Better

Effective time management is critical to the success of any project, be it large or small scale. The Agile methodology caters to careful time planning and management for more efficient project delivery in the form of intervals called sprints.

A Sprint is termed as a set period of time or an iteration during which specific work has to be completed and made ready for review. It is a time-box of maximum one month with consistent durations throughout a development effort. A project development cycle comprises multiple sprints, each catering to a set of objectives that work toward the completion and delivery of a viable product.

Since, sprint planning is an integral part of the project planning, it is important to make the sprint planning meeting as effective as possible. Here are 5 tips you can use today to make your next sprint planning more efficient.

1. Learn from past mistakes

For every sprint planning, it is important to take into consideration the successful and well, not so successful, practices in past sprints.

Sebastien Boyer has over 20 years of experience in project management and is a certified Professional Scrum Product Owner, certified Scaled Professional and Kanban Management Professional. According to Boyer, one of the most important parts and mostly undeuitlized stages is the Retrospective.

The Retrospective meeting provides and outlook on the entire sprint experience, what was good and what can be improved.  In reality, by reflecting and learning from the earlier Sprint, your team can better identify windows of improvement and also discover better strategies for a more successful output in the future.

The entire Scrum Team should discuss the source of issues and work together to modify strategies for more efficient results. Especially, if there are problems in meeting deadlines, then it calls for improved time management.

2. Do your homework

It is always better to have some homework done before planning the next sprint planning meeting.

Luís Gonçalves is an Agile retrospective expert and co-author of the book “Getting Value Out Of Agile Retrospectives.”

Gonçalves recommends that before the meeting, the Product owner should have a rough draft of the upcoming Sprint Goals ready. Also, in case a task calls for external dependencies, the team should be aligned with the Product Owners.  team members when Product Owners come to a meeting asking for work that cannot be done because of external dependencies.

The team members should also be ready beforehand and have some research tasks done before the Sprint Planning.

3. Leave some buffer time

It is useful to allot a little extra time in a sprint for unprecedented situations. These situations may vary depending on your environment.

Mike Cohn is the founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. He is also the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile as well as the Better User Stories video course.

According to Cohn, teams can benefit from including some amount of safety into each sprint. Some of the situations that may require some room when planning a sprint can include fixing critical operational issues e.g. server gone down, and fixing high-severity bugs

4. Tool up

Using an effective project management tool can greatly help in organizing an effective project development cycle, team collaboration and on time project delivery. Did you know that 90% of companies have claimed that open source software increased efficiency, interoperability, and innovation.

Boyer recommends using an Agile software or a tool designed for scrum to make your team more efficient and your meetings more productive. He claims that teams using project management software can result in increased improvement in team communication, project quality, and customer satisfaction. Plus, through digital interventions, teams can have a better understanding of requirements while staying on the same page.

5. Let team members create their own tasks

It is important to include all team members when planning a sprint. Limiting the decisions and planning to the product owner and scrum master can hinder new ideas and potential room for improvement, that can be otherwise brought about by team members.

Paul J. Heidema is the Director of Agile Transformation at ADP. According to Heidemam, team participation and discussion are critical for an effective Sprint Planning. He recommends finding creative and fun ways to encourage participation of all members.

This can comprise pair discussions, peer reviews, challenge each other segments of time and rotation of speakers. Teams should try out new approaches to task creation to increase participation. For example, including pair tasks writing, time-boxed challenges to writing a number of tasks in a certain amount of time and peer review tasks creation.

Do you have any tips for effective sprint planning? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Fred Wilson

Fred Wilson

Fred is an Agile & Software Consultant at nTask. He works with teams to streamline workflows and enhance team collaboration. He is an avid reader and often writes about productivity, project management and collaboration.

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