Sprint planning: why, what, how
The scrum guide 2017 mentions the sprint goal 27 times, that’s quite often for something which is not part of the official scrum framework.
In the 2020 scrum guide, the sprint goal is the commitment of the sprint backlog.
The sprint goal is the reason to fund the sprint which if you just look at the salaries of the developers, is quite a significant amount of money.
Far too often teams just keep on sprinting because this is what’s expected from them. And the number of completed sprints is correlated with progress.
Now, fulfilling a sprint goal is a tangible progress and is something worthwhile to demonstrate at the sprint review, making it worthwhile for stakeholders to inspect the product. As a consequence the sprint planning now addresses three topics:
- topic 1 why is the sprint valuable
- topic 2 what can be done with this sprint
- topic 3 how will you choose how the work gets done.
Topic 1 is between the product owner and the scrum team.
The product owner cannot impose a goal otherwise the scrum team could not commit.
The product owner proposes a goal and collaborates with the scrum team. The resulting sprint goal is the “why”.
Topic 2 is about finding out “what” can be done.
The more past performance data is available the more confident the developers can be in creating their forecast in regards to the sprint goal.
It is quite common that there is a going forwards and backwards between topic one and two.
Topic 3 is when the developers figure out “how” the chosen work gets done.
For each selected product backlog item out of their forecast, the developers plan how they can complete the work in order to create a done increment.
Again, some insights might percolate back up to the other topics: why, what, how.
Focusing on the anticipated outcome and less on the output will be a powerful challenge for many teams.