Sprint Planning Prep For Product Owners

Sprinter getting readySprint planning is the first event of each sprint. Doing it well will align the scrum team and set a course for success. Doing it poorly will waste time, energy, and team morale. Here’s how a product owner can prepare for a successful sprint planning meeting.

Prerequisite: Well-refined product backlog items

If your sprint planning is to have any hope of succeeding, you need to already have well-refined (some say well-groomed) items at the top of the product backlog. I recommend maintaining two to three sprints worth of sprint-ready items (stories) at the top of the product backlog. Many teams hold a weekly backlog refinement session to keep their product backlog healthy.

Start With A Goal In Mind

The product owner should walk into sprint planning with a meaningful sprint goal that they would like the scrum team to achieve this sprint, and a set of product backlog items that would support achieving that sprint goal. For example, the desired sprint goal might be to reduce the time it takes for a customer to complete their order. Some of the supporting product backlog items might be: pre-filling the bill info, pre-filling the shipping info, and optimizing the performance of the database for the check-out transactions.

Order The Backlog To Support The Goal

Once the product owner has their proposed sprint goal identified, they move sprint-ready product backlog items that would support that goal to the top of the product backlog. The product owner can use the team’s historical velocity to guide them as to how many stories would be reasonable. If the team’s velocity is 100 points per sprint, then the product owner should select no more than 100 points worth of stories to support their proposed sprint goal, and move those to the top of the product backlog.

Be Prepared For Change

All of this may sound like the product owner gets to plan the sprint without consulting the team. Nothing could be further from the truth! This pre-work becomes the starting point for the sprint planning collaboration. In the sprint planning meeting, the product owner and development team work together to create the actual sprint goal and identify which product backlog items will be in the team’s forecast (some say commitment) for the sprint. The product owner’s pre-work sets the stage for a productive and efficient sprint planning event.


Chris Sims

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