Sprint Planning: Choosing What to Work On

Teamwork Module 6 · Parabol Resources · 2 Minute Read

Sprint Planning is a meeting that occurs at the beginning of every 2-week work cycle. The objective of the meeting is to figure out what the team will do for the next 2 weeks. It’s done by pulling tasks one at a time from the Backlog to the Todo column, clarifying what each task means if necessary, and assigning task ownership. Sprint Planning is finished when the team estimates it has selected around 2-weeks of work to complete within the upcoming 2-week work cycle.

By limiting the team’s planning to 2 weeks at a time—as opposed to committing to a work plan that might stretch out months—the team can make a change in its direction without feeling out of control. This inherit adaptivity is why this way of working is called agile.

When Sprint Planning begins it’s always assumed that the tasks in the Backlog column have been sorted by the Program Director with the most important and urgent tasks appearing at the top. Remember: the goal isn’t for the team to complete all the tasks on the Backlog—in fact, the Backlog will probably never be empty. Rather, the job of the Backlog is to keep a prioritized list of all the things a team could do. Sprint Planning keeps the team focused on what the team should do—what’s most important to complete over the next 2 weeks.

How to Run a Sprint Planning Meeting

Sprint Planning works best if everybody can see the Sprint Board at the same time—either by projecting the board to shared monitor or asking everybody to open a link to the same Kanban software.

1. Gather your team together, and check-in. Remind the team of the purpose of Sprint Planning: to identify the next 2 weeks worth of work

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2. Pull the task from the top of the Backlog column to the Todo column. Ask the team the following questions:

  • Is it clear how to complete the task? If not, ask for suggestions from the team.
  • Can the task be complete in 2 weeks? If not, divide the task into smaller pieces—adding the next step(s) back to the Inbox

3. Assign the task an owner. Choose which role is responsible for completing it and ask them if they have the capacity to complete the task during this Sprint. If they accept, assign it to them. Resist the urge to assign the task to multiple owners as it dilutes accountability

4. If the team has the capacity to accept more tasks, go back to step 1. Keep clarifying and assigning work until the Sprint is filled