March 15, 2016

Use Scrum Planning Meetings for Agile Delivery

Agile Delivery
There are three regular planning events in Scrum, and although each has a different objective and audience they form the basic mechanism for Agile delivery and risk-management.

Managers that understand the purpose of these three meetings will be able to gain the benefits Agile Delivery in a wide range of business situations, not just in IT and whether or not they follow Scrum.

In overview, the regular planning meetings are:

  • Sprint Planning meeting: a collaboration to agree WHAT can be delivered in the time available and HOW will it be achieved
  • Sprint Review meeting: another collaboration to review the DELIVERY achieves and to prioritise the next delivery increment with that knowledge
  • Daily Scrum meeting: to allow the team to stay focused on reaching their agreed goal

Sprint Planning

The input for Sprint Planning meeting is the Product Backlog - a list of requirements, plus the knowledge of what the team actually achieved in the last Sprint. It takes place immediately before the Sprint commences and involves the whole team with the Product Owner, who must prioritise the Backlog and decide what will be included now and what left for later.

For many team members, the planning meeting will be the first time they have encountered a particular requirement. Since they will be asked to make a commitment to deliver it by the end of the Sprint, they must fully understand the customer's requirement; the acceptance criteria; and the team's approach to dong the work. This is no time for holding back on questions in the hope that somebody else will ask, or to assume that all will be clear once you get started on the job itself - the purpose of this meeting is to drive-out all such unknowns.

The output for this part of planning is an agreed Backlog of requirements to be delivered and defines the goal of the Sprint.

For each selected requirement, the team also answers the question HOW will the chosen work be accomplished.

This is usually done by breaking the work down into actual tasks. These are quite detailed, often specifying details of people that need to be interviewed, documents to research, names of classes and functions, diagram types and scopes, etc.
Tasks are sometimes given a time estimate in hours, so the Scrum Master can track the day to day progress of each requirement.

Sprint Review

At the end of the Sprint, the Team demonstrates to the business everything that has been completed at the Sprint Review. This may be the delivery, or delivery may have taken place in which case the Team usually presents the status and provides performance information.

Based on the delivery, and with their knowledge of the latest activities in the wider business, stakeholders review what they have learned with the Team and together they discuss the opportunities arising for the forthcoming Sprint.

Daily Scrum

The 15 minute Daily Scrum meeting is perhaps most famous because of the name and a clue to the sporting analogy that runs through Scrum.

It’s also the simplest planning meeting with just three questions to answer:

  • What did you do yesterday that helped the team reach the Sprint Goal? (Review);
  • what do you intend to do today to help the team reach its Sprint Goal? (Plan);
  • Is anything holding us back from meeting the Sprint Goal? (Check).

The daily Scrum allows the team to plan their day according to everyone’s output on the previous day. More importantly it focuses the whole team on their objective - reaching the Sprint Goal.

The Secret of Agile Delivery is Regular Planning

At its heart, Agile simply prioritises delivery and encourages behaviours that lead to collaboration.

Managers that admire Scrum's ability to deliver value incrementally and reliably need only lead three regular meetings that focus relentlessly on Agile Delivery to start removing the blockers to Organisational Agility.

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