You Don’t Need to Think of Everything During Sprint Planning

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During a sprint planning meeting, some may wonder "why am I here trying to determine how many hours this task could take, when I could be actually working on it instead?" They wouldn’t be too far off the mark, either. If your team tries to determine the exact amount of time every product backlog item will take to complete, their well-meaning precision could be their downfall.

That level of detail is not required. When selecting a set of backlog items to work on and getting a rough idea of how to achieve them, it’s not necessary for the team to know every single detail of every single task that they will work on.

How Long Should Teams Spend In Sprint Planning?
A team will often try to spend as much time as possible during a sprint planning meeting so they feel completely prepared for all of the tasks ahead. Instead, what they should be doing is paying attention to one of the core principals of the meeting - efficiency.

During a sprint, the team will likely uncover crucial tasks which were not foreseen in their sprint planning meeting. This is unavoidable. Trying to plan for every single task in one session will only result in frazzled brains and an exhausted team. A sprint planning meeting will never reveal all the bumps in the road. Instead, it’s more successful to plan for around 60% - 80% of their sprint, leaving the remaining "unplanned time" to work on tasks that have been discovered during the sprint.

The ScrumMaster could suggest to the team to think harder and longer, pressuring them to uncover a handful more tasks before leaving the spring planning meeting, but at what cost? They’ll never uncover all tasks until they get stuck into the sprint anyway, so there isn’t any point in keeping a team locked in a room for longer than they need to be. In, out and get started.

It’s important that the team can quickly identify the big things they need to do. Without the pressure of planning for every task which might arise during the sprint, consequently creating a faster paced planning environment, the team will identify all the necessary tasks quicker.

Leaving Room for the Unexpected
When leaving room for in the sprint for the undiscovered tasks, it’s almost impossible to say how much room. Take a guess. If that’s too much or too little, discuss in the retrospective and adjust during the next sprint planning meeting. Only the smaller tasks slip through the memory during a sprint planning meeting, so it's encouraging to remember that the "unplanned time" will more than likely be spent working on several newly discovered smaller tasks, rather than one larger one.

In order to optimise flow, you need slack in your system... But that's a whole other article.

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