In recent years, the tech and app development industry have been verging on obsessed with the Agile development process and methodologies like Scrum. There is good reason for this, since as technology continues to grow and progress we need to discover new ways to keep up, both in terms of efficiency and efficacy.

One of the most widely used development frameworks is Scrum. Scrum is built around what are called “sprints,” which are 2-4-week time periods where developers have a set list of tasks they need to accomplish. As you can imagine, making sure that you are working on the right tasks is vital to getting your product or app to market as fast as possible.

Hoping to help those of us who have a basic understanding of Scrum but aren’t sure all that goes into it, we have put together our tips for running a successful Scrum planning meeting. In this meeting you team will plan out every aspect of the upcoming sprint, so it is very important to get this right. But enough talking about it, let’s get into it.

scrum planning meeting

Basic principles of a Scrum planning meeting

The Scrum planning meeting is a sacred part of the entire Scrum development process. This is where each member of the team comes together to collaborate and decide which tasks from the backlog need to get done and when. The most important basic principles of this Scrum planning meeting can be boiled down into two short phrases.

  •      Leave ego at the door.
  •      Get ready for open communication.

The only way Scrum works, much like an actual rugby Scrum, is if everyone works together. The Scrum methodology has no place for egos or keeping secrets amongst the team. Everyone needs to engage in open, honest communication for Scrum to do what it is supposed to and for your team to end up with the product that it should.

Plan for collaboration

The best way to ensure that you are meeting the basic principles of a Scrum planning meeting is to plan from the very beginning for a collaborative environment. This will be up to the Scrum master to facilitate an environment of working together and harmony from the very beginning.

Unless you actually sit down and plan out how the meeting will go with an agenda that you can send out to your team, this will not happen. Scrum planning meetings without the proper pre-planning can end up getting derailed or steamrolled by one or two members of the team.

Instead, plan to hear from each member of the team. The good thing about a Scrum planning meeting is that time is short, so it must be used as efficiently as possible. Give your team the plan for the meeting beforehand so that everyone is on the same page.

Follow your own rules

Speaking of time, Scrum planning meetings have a set amount of time that they should take to complete. Depending on how long the sprint is, you should plan to have one hour of planning for every week of the sprint. Some sprints will last 4 weeks, but it is not recommended to have a 4-hour meeting. Instead, break it up into segments, but make sure you plan the full sprint.

This also means that you need to stop when the time says to stop. If your meeting is planned correctly, this shouldn’t be a problem, but having a set time to end each part of the discussion will make sure that time isn’t wasted.

scrum backlog

Include more user stories than you can handle

In any app development process, there will be a backlog of tasks that you need to complete before your app is complete. In Scrum, part of the planning meeting is going through a list of user stories to find areas that need to be worked on. User stories are simply feedback from testers and the product owner on what needs to be done.

The best way to have as successful of a Scrum planning meeting as you can is to include more user stories from the backlog than your team can handle. This way, you will already be able to start planning what will be done at future meetings with the leftovers. It also allows for wiggle room, for instance, if there is a user story that doesn’t fit within the upcoming sprint, you have back-up tasks that you can include instead.

Elicit questions

When you are running a Scrum planning meeting and no one is asking questions of the product owner or stakeholders, you should be disappointed. Unless your team is asking questions, things will be forgotten and left out. The point of Scrum is to deliver a product that is the best possible end-product for your customers, so asking those customers questions is obviously a huge part of that.

As the leader of the meeting, it is your job to elicit questions from your team. Make it known that you won’t move the process forward unless enough good questions have been asked. Like collaboration, by making this a priority early you are able to work more efficiently. Also, your team will be thinking of questions throughout the meeting instead of simply asking questions to ask questions.

software development company

Common mistakes

We have already addressed some common mistakes (that’s often where best practices come from: addressing mistakes), but there are a few others we wanted to briefly cover so you know what to avoid.

  •      Pushy product owner: Scrum cannot do what it is meant to if the product owner simply dictates duties to each member of the team. Developers need to pick their projects, not have them pushed on them, for them to be most effective.
  •      Backlog isn’t ready: This is the quickest way to waste the time of everyone involved. If your backlog isn’t ready for a sprint, don’t hold a Scrum planning meeting. Simple as that.
  •      Team plans individual sprints: Again, in Scrum, collaboration is key. If each member of your team is performing their own sprints, you are not only short-selling your customers on features, you will be selling yourself short on the full capabilities of your offering.

As long as you follow these few easy steps and avoid these common mistakes, running a successful Scrum planning meeting shouldn’t be a problem!