Good Sprint Planning (& Refinement)

Good Sprint Planning (& Refinement)

September 29, 2017 Agile 0

A good Sprint planning relies heavily on a good Refinement session. While ´Product Backlog Refinement´ is mentioned in the Scrum guide, there is no explanation on how to do a Sprint Refinement Session nor is it mentioned as an Scrum Event.

So, I tend to see the Sprint Refinement Session and a standalone event you do before a planning session. This allows for a bit more breathing space when implementing Scrum because it allows you to trim & schedule your meetings in case you’re working with a large team.


Refinement Session

In the Refinement sessions you discuss all items of the Product Backlog. Before the session starts, the PO must assign business value to each and every item. This is to prioritize each item so we know where to start. You can also prioritize on Risk or Technical Necessity.

Then, in the meeting, the Development team questions the Product Owner for the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ for each item. (An experienced PO can write down the ‘What’ and ‘Why’ before the refinement session – Be careful that you don’t go overboard with the details.)

Once the story is fully understood, the team talks about the ‘How’ – How will we implement the User Story? Once everybody has given an honest opinion its time to ‘Poker’ on the level of work required on each item. Estimation is a difficult game in the beginning. My advice don’t focus too hard on assigning complexity points: 1,2 is small, 3,5 are normal tasks and 8 is a big task.

Refinement Session Resource

For the first session, only invite Scrum Master & Product Owner
Is goal of team ready?
Is team ready?
Is there a Product Backlog tool?
Take first goal of project
Break it down to 1 or more Epics
Include business value if more than 1 Epic
Break that down to user stories
Add ‘What, Why’ to story.
Include business value to stories


Subsequent times: Invite entire Scrum Team
Is goal of team clear?
Take a unrefined Epic (If there are no unrefined epics, go to ‘Take unrefined story and add the What & Why’
Break it down to 1 or more stories
Include business value if more than 1 Epic
Break that down to user stories
Take unrefined story and add the What & Why
Include business value to stories & poker stories


Example User Story Card
Front of card

·        Story [Short Name]

·        As a [role]

·        I want [something]

·        So that [benefit]

·        Size ____

·        Priority ____

Back of card

·        Acceptance Criteria [Short Name]

·        Given [Context]

·        When [Event 1]

o   [Event 2] [Etc.]

·        Then [Outcome]

[Outcome 2] [Etc.]


Sprint Planning

It should be easy to pick the top items for your sprint, together with your PO. Just pick the items that are in the sweet spot of: Great Business Value and not too complex. Pick enough items to fill your sprint. Remember, the first time you do this its tricky, but for subsequent times you can look at the total complexity points you were able to process as a forecast for the next sprint. (Remember that the value this forecast provides depends on how good you are in estimating story items.)

Finally remember to set a nice Sprint Goal for easy communication with Stakeholders.

Sprint Planning Resource

Before first Sprint Planning

GOAL: Prepare Sprint Planning
Is goal of team ready? Definition of Ready

  • Defined clearly enough that all members understand what must be done.
  • Include Business Value in T-Shirt size  (XS, S, M, L, XL)
  • Include any required specs, customization, etc.
  • Pokered by the entire team, and is small enough to fit in a single sprint.
  • Free from any external dependencies.
Is team ready?
Is there a Product Backlog tool?
Is Product Backlog filled?
Is Product Backlog prioritized?
Schedule first refinement session?
Are enough items ready for sprint?


During Sprint Planning (1/2)

60min to 4 hours / Scrum Team

GOAL: What can be delivered in the Increment resulting from the upcoming Sprint?


Pull up Jira Product Backlog on big screen
Start at top items (most valuable)
Ask if item is clear to everybody
If not pokered, scrum poker an estimate
What is projected capacity for sprint?
Pull items into Sprint until Team is satisfied
Ask PO for his Sprint Goal intention. Ask Dev team if they agree – if not, adapt the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Goal is an objective that will be met within the Sprint through the implementation of the Product Backlog, and it provides guidance to the Development Team on why it is building the Increment.


During Sprint Planning (2/2)

60min to 4 hours / Development Team & Scrum Master

GOAL: How will the work needed to deliver the Increment be achieved?


Pull up Jira Product Backlog on big screen
Start at top story
Who is owner of the story?
What will be the first steps for this story?
Continue until last story
Set Definition of Done
By the end of the Sprint Planning, the Development Team should be able to explain to the Product Owner and Scrum Master how it intends to work as a self-organizing team to accomplish the Sprint Goal and create the anticipated Increment.