5 essential tips to run an effective Sprint Planning

5 essential tips to run an effective Sprint Planning

Do you want to make sure your Sprint Planning meetings are more effective and collaborative? In this article, we will explore 5 best practices to help you prevent endless Sprint Plannings.

A Sprint Planning is one of the main Scrum ceremonies where the objective of the next weeks of work is defined. Due to its importance and complexity, it usually takes longer than the other ceremonies and can be difficult for the team to get through it.

As we want to meet these objectives in a timely manner and make sure that no one has a bad time along the way, here we present 5 qualities that every Sprint Planning should have.

Prioritized Sprint Backlog

It is essential to arrive at the Sprint Planning with the backlog already prioritized. This work should be done beforehand so that during the planning, the most important user stories and tasks are started directly. If we want to have an effective planning ceremony, those involved should not look at each other in the middle of the meeting and say, “Now what ticket shall we move on to?”

User stories that comply with the Definition of Ready

The Definition of Ready (DoR) is the set of characteristics that a user story must have to be considered ready to be worked on. It is a kind of contract that the development team signs with the Product Owner (PO). What is included in it will depend on each project. It is vitally important that all tickets comply with the DoR beforehand because this will ensure that there will be more understanding when it comes to planning and less unnecessary discussions.

Some guidelines that a DoR might involve are: dependencies between identified user stories, attached designs or references, complete acceptance criteria, defined alternative paths, etc. If, for example, the user story being addressed in the planning does not have alternative paths defined, this will undoubtedly trigger a series of questions by the development team, which, although essential and very useful, will drastically increase the duration of the ceremony.


In addition to being good for day-to-day work together, it is important that the Sprint Planning is collaborative, meaning that all team members are aligned and working well together. The PO should be present during the meeting to clarify any questions about the user stories, and the team should have the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.

It is important that all team members feel comfortable sharing their opinions and that there is an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual respect. It might seem that this trust would lead to more chatter, thereby increasing the planning time; however, it is on the contrary — while there may be more dialogue, there will be less rework.

If, for example, the project’s PO decides that they do not want to participate in the planning because everything is already complete, based on their opinion, the development team might plan tasks that are not quite correct or are approached from another angle. You may end up having to do another planning session, therefore generating additional rework. Or worse, they may realize the difference between expectation and reality after it is already developed.

Clear objectives

As with any ceremony, it is essential that all those involved know what is expected of them to achieve their objectives in a timely manner. The work of the Scrum Master will be fundamental in this aspect to educate and be the moderator that ensures the integrity of the meeting. Only topics that concern the planning itself should be discussed, as this is not the time to refine tickets. By that, I do not mean that someone is not allowed to ask a specific question that can give clarity on how to address a problem, just not develop topics that are not strictly necessary for the planning course. Any other topic can and should be developed later.

Limited participants

To prevent Sprint Planning from becoming an endless meeting, it is important to limit the number of participants to the people who really need to be present. It is recommended that the Development team, the Scrum Master, and the PO be the only participants in the Sprint Planning meeting, unless the presence of another person is needed to provide specific information. This will help reduce the number of unnecessary discussions and prevent the meeting from running too long.

Bonus track

Even with all these features in place, do you feel that planning is taking longer than desired? Here are some ideas that could be implemented depending on the project.

Arrive at the planning with the task delegation already thought out: If we have a user story that by its nature is going to be addressed by a particular person, that person should have the list of tasks already thought out and estimated beforehand. We are not trying to avoid conversations, which are fundamental. Instead, we would rather take the time to think about the initial guidelines.

There are times when at the end of the Sprint a participant has finished all the user stories and cannot help the team with the remaining ones. So why not dedicate the remaining hours of the day to gain understanding of the tickets that will be developed in the next planning instead of taking on something new?

Clear agenda: One suggestion might be to set a clear agenda for the meeting and make sure it is followed. This will help all participants know how the meeting is going to run and allow them to settle in so that they can get through it in the best possible way. Why not even set up a break? Why not split it in two? We must ensure that it is not miserable for the participants but something that we all see as useful.  

And how do we know if we are on the right track? 

Planning is a very important ceremony, but there is no need to martyr yourself in the name of achieving objectives.

Following these ideas will surely improve the quality of the Sprint Planning, but the best thermometer will undoubtedly be obtained by talking to the team during the retros. It is essential to take advantage of the Sprint Retrospective  to identify how everyone feels and what things can be improved to make the planning more effective.

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