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Here’s Our Definitive Sprint Planning Checklist for Better Project Management

January 27, 2024 by Maria Garcia

Helpful Summary

  • Overview: This article discusses the importance of sprint planning as a foundation for successful project execution and gives you a step-by-step guide to the process.

  • Why Listen To Us: Teaminal’s expertise in sprint planning is proven by our impact at companies like Hello Fresh and T-Mobile. **

  • Why It Matters: Sprint planning is important for team collaboration, enhancing communication, and risk mitigation. 

  • Action Points: Regularly refine your backlog, decide who runs the sprint planning, pull in high-priority items, clarify user stories, review each item, assign tasks, and prepare for daily standups. 

  • Further Research: Check out our comparison of sprint planning and backlog refinement for deeper insights into both processes.

Sprint planning is a crucial (but often misunderstood and poorly implemented) part of the Agile workflow. It’s a collaborative process that allows teams to plan for upcoming sprints and prioritize tasks to deliver high-quality work efficiently. 

At Teaminal, we’ve helped teams at hundreds of high-performing companies optimize their sprint planning process using our intuitive and user-friendly tools. In this article, we’ll walk you through the basics of sprint planning and share some tips and best practices from our experience.

Let’s get started.

Why listen to us?

Teaminal is the go-to tool for hundreds of Agile teams at major companies like Angi, Hello Fresh, Workday, and T-Mobile. We’ve helped teams like yours streamline their sprint planning process and achieve better results in less time.

Now, what exactly is sprint planning?

What is sprint planning?

Sprint planning is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—it’s the process of planning and organizing tasks for a sprint.

Sprint planning meetings (usually 1 to 8 hours long) are where the team comes together to decide what work will be completed during the upcoming sprint, who’ll be responsible for each task, and how long it will take to complete.

The goals are usually:

  • To identify and prioritize the most important tasks for the sprint.

  • To understand the scope of work and potential roadblocks.

  • To assign tasks to team members based on their skills and availability.

  • To estimate how long it will take to complete each task and plan accordingly.

At Teaminal, we find that most teams are wasting tons of time and energy because of disorganized sprint planning (that usually results from a disorganized backlog).

We’ve talked about optimizing Agile processes at length on the blog. The gist is that 90% of a lengthy sprint planning meeting is devoted to work that should have been done during backlog grooming—things like prioritizing tasks, breaking them down into smaller ones, and estimating effort.

Our tool is designed to make backlog refinement simple, quick, and async with features like planning poker, automatic item surfacing, comment threads, and integrations so that sprint planning can be done in as little as 5–15 minutes.

Why is sprint planning important?

Better collaboration

Sprint planning is all about getting everyone on the same page and aligned to work towards a common goal. This can be difficult for distributed teams, though—especially when everyone is working remotely. 

By using a tool that allows for async collaboration (like Teaminal) team members can easily communicate and share their thoughts on tasks and priorities. This leads to better understanding, more efficient meetings, and ultimately a stronger team dynamic.

Efficient use of time

Sprint planning meetings eat up a lot of time—but teams are willing to sacrifice it because they know the importance of planning and alignment. However, with the right tool and integrations in place, sprint planning can be done in as little as 5–15 minutes. 

This means teams can reap the benefits of sprint planning without the time investment most methods call for.

Clear communication

Sprint planning is not only about setting tasks and priorities, but also about ensuring clear communication between team members. With real-time collaboration tools like Teaminal, teams can easily share updates, ask questions, and clarify any confusion without having to wait for the next meeting.

This leads to a more streamlined workflow and prevents miscommunication from causing delays or errors in project completion.

Sprint Planning Checklist

  • Regularly refine your backlog. Make sure your product backlog has a constant flow of new user stories, refined and prioritized. Use async tools like Teaminal to refine your backlog without scheduling time-consuming meetings.

  • Decide who will run the sprint planning ceremony. In most cases, this is either the Product Manager (PM) or the Engineering Manager (EM). If your backlog is well-groomed, they should be able to handle this ceremony on their own.

  • Pull in high-priority items from your backlog. Start with your highest priority items and work your way down. Use your story point estimations to work within your team’s capacity.

  • Shape and define any unclear user stories. Make sure to have discussions with your team members to clarify any unclear user stories, and update them accordingly. Use Teaminal’s async planning poker to quickly and efficiently estimate story points.

  • Review each item. Make sure there’s a shared understanding of each item within the team, keeping discussions brief (ideally limited to 5 minutes per item). Teaminal stores all your discussions as comment threads (and cross-posts them to Jira), so you don’t need to worry about losing important information.

  • Assign tasks to team members. Once all user stories have been clarified and estimated, assign them to your team members based on their skills and availability.

  • Prepare for daily standups. If your team uses synchronous daily standups, set a time and format for these. Alternatively, you can use Teaminal to automate async daily standups through Slack—team members will be prompted with a series of questions each day and their responses will be shared with the team.

Conclusion

Sprint planning emerges as a pivotal phase in Agile project management, fostering alignment between the development team and the product owner while establishing clear expectations and goals for the impending sprint. 

At Teaminal, we believe that successful sprint planning relies on effective communication and collaboration between all team members. The steps outlined are a great way to cut down on wasted time while ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

Get started with Teaminal for free and see how our platform can streamline your workflows.

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