Practical planning

Quick Thoughts

31 January 2017 • Written by Ceedee Doyle

We don’t plan in an Agile world. We just get in and do stuff!

Or at least that’s the myth. Actually, we do far more planning than in a traditional world, it’s just in smaller chunks. It may not feel like it when you’re spending a whole day planning your sprint or attending the PIP and everyone is involved – all the people actually doing the work, plan the work.

We want to under commit and over deliver. A while back, I put this together for some squads I was working with. See if it makes sense for you. Start top left (work out capacity) and follow the arrows:


For those who like words, the key steps to planning are:

  • Determine your available time, as a team, to work on stuff (Capacity). Create a time grid and, for every team member, fill in how much time you actually have to do work on the stuff you are picking up off the backlog. Why? Everyone is on the same page about what we could actually do (commit to) this sprint
  • Take off any team meetings, Communities of Practice, one-on-ones, leave etc.
  • One-at-a-time – take ONE item off the backlog at a time, discuss it as a team with the PO to the level where you feel you can task it out reliably. Check DoR. If anything is missing, it doesn’t stop you doing the item. It just means you have more tasks to do in the sprint to get started. Why? Common understanding of what’s involved, what the aim is and enough detail to flesh out any potential problems
  • Task the story – put up tasks for everything you feel you need to do, including rough hrs (day/half-day). Why? Just enough to be clear – not every minute detail, things will emerge
  • Check you have a task for every item in your DoD. Why? People often forget to allow time/tasks for these?
  • Check capacity – are you full?
  • Hand on heart – ask yourselves if you feel you can get all the stuff on the board DONE in the sprint. Why? Even though the numbers say you can do it, do you really feel you can? If not, let’s discuss how to make it more certain – drop a story, add a check, extra catch-ups
  • Done planning – update your board, burn down and go to stand-up. Let's get started!

Everyone should feel confident that you will deliver something useful and tangible that the customer can see, touch, feel, experience and give you feedback on. If not, ask yourself what’s missing in your process. After all, the purpose of planning is for you, as a team, to be clear about what you are going to deliver over the next couple of weeks and why.

How do you feel at the end of planning?  

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