One of the most important responsibilities of product owners and scrum masters is the sprint planning meeting. This is the time to plan ahead and think about what goals you want the team to achieve in the next sprint, as well as how to get there.
This guide will help you plan your sprints productively and efficiently. Follow our best practices to clear up that product backlog in no time!
What is a sprint planning meeting?
A sprint planning meeting is held by agile development teams to decide which backlog items will be tackled in the next sprint. During the sprint planning session, the product owner, scrum master, and scrum team members work together to set sprint goals.
In the agile methodology, work is completed in time-boxed intervals called sprints which usually last between two and four weeks. This meeting is one of the four scrum ceremonies that agile teams hold as part of the scrum framework for each sprint:
Who should attend a sprint planning meeting?
In the scrum framework, the scrum master, product owner, and the entire scrum team attend the sprint planning meeting. You can invite outside stakeholders — but that usually doesn’t happen often.
How long should a sprint planning meeting take?
Sprint planning shouldn’t take up more than two hours for each week that the upcoming sprint is expected to last. So, for the typical two-week sprint, the planning session should run four hours.
(This is called time-boxing, and it’s setting the upper limit on how long something should last: in this case, your sprint planning meeting.)
It’s the responsibility of the scrum master to make sure that this time-boxing is followed by everyone on the team. If the team finishes planning before the time-box runs out, the ceremony is over. There’s no need to run out the clock.
Why is a sprint planning meeting important?
The primary purpose of sprint planning is to decide what needs to be done and who will be doing it. BUT the meeting offers benefits beyond just dividing work among team members.
Sprint planning provides an important opportunity for teams to identify the best way to build a product and increase the value for customers and the business alike.
Having recurring planning meetings helps with strategic alignment, making sure that each feature or user story relates to the overall product vision and roadmap. Additionally, planning sessions boost team accountability and morale. Teams coordinate on dependencies, scope, and ownership, encouraging everyone to drive success together.
How to run a sprint planning meeting: a free template
Meeting agendas help to keep any team meeting on track by outlining the topics, tasks, and decisions that will be discussed (ideally with times for each).
Since sprint planning is always time-boxed, we included this sprint planning meeting agenda you can use, with suggested times beside each section.
✅ Introduce the team and set out the meeting’s purpose
To kick off sprint planning, introduce any new members who might have joined since the previous sprint and state the purpose of the meeting. If you have any ground rules around sprint planning, you can also review these briefly or include them on the agenda for all to see.
You can also begin the meeting with an icebreaker activity to get everyone in the mood to discuss and communicate openly.
✅ Set goals
As the discussion between the product owner and the development team progresses, you’ll decide what the sprint goal is. A sprint goal is a concise statement, between one and two sentences, that outlines the objectives of the next sprint.
✅ Determine team capacity and velocity
Team capacity is the measure of how many story points or product backlog items (scrum parlance for “tasks”) your team can complete during a sprint under normal circumstances. Capacity is calculated as the number of team members multiplied by how many hours a day they can work productively. Remember to subtract time spent in various meetings.
Team velocity refers to how fast your team can complete the amount of work assigned to it. To determine velocity, product owners and scrum masters look at previous sprints for examples of how fast the team finishes similar work.
✅ Create your sprint backlog
During the planning meeting, the team reviews the product backlog for tasks that still need to be completed, which gives them a better idea of where they stand with project completion. This can be done in a task management system like JIRA, Notion, or Linear.
After the discussion, the team can select the tasks they’ll work on as part of the next sprint.
✅ Do a quick wrap-up and create your action items
At the end of the meeting, make sure that your team members understand what they’re tasked with and that there are no known blockers that could slow down their efforts.
Sprint planning is easier with tools like Vowel – you can use it to take notes together, collaborate on meeting agendas, and make sure the next steps are clear by assigning action items.
6 best practices for a sprint planning meeting
A successful sprint needs a successful sprint planning meeting. To make that meeting productive and to reach the end of the sprint effectively, here are some best practices to follow.
1. Be prepared
Aside from a clear agenda, there’s one more important thing for product managers to do: backlog refinement. For the whole team to go through the entire product backlog is slow and inefficient. Instead, the product owner should pick those user stories for which there are already clear acceptance criteria.
In general, product owners and scrum masters need to do everything they can to prepare ahead of the sprint planning meeting. This saves time and makes the planning process more straightforward.
Vowel can help you stay organized: You can place related meetings in shared folders for easy reference, and easily see past notes from recurring meetings to remember what was discussed and agreed to.
2. Keep it short and sweet
Remember: sprint planning is a time-boxed event, meaning there's a strict time limit. Having a fixed meeting agenda encourages people to move fast and not get sidetracked by discussions that are outside the meeting’s scope.
3. Leave time to discuss potential issues
It’s not uncommon for issues and roadblocks to emerge during the planning meeting. That’s why you should set some time aside in each planning session to discuss them with your team.
Every issue that pops up should be recorded with an action item that identifies who’s going to follow up and by when (usually the product owner). This ensures the sprint is as free from blockers as possible.
4. Stick to the sprint’s goal
Avoid changing the sprint goal midway through the meeting — it'll take away from the focus the team needs to achieve its commitments.
It’s also important to make a distinction between the sprint goal and the sprint backlog. The sprint goal is the objective of the sprint such as a hypothesis to test, an experiment to implement, or a general goal to achieve. The sprint backlog is the work that needs to be done for the team to achieve the goal.
That means that the sprint backlog can change. Indeed, there are many reasons why the development team and the product owner might need to change it, such as the team’s chosen tech solution not performing well or a key functionality necessary to reach the goal being overlooked during planning.
5. Record your meetings
You need to document all decisions you make during the sprint planning meeting. This record is a reference point for all team members during the sprint. It’s a good idea to keep these documents in one centralized place that every team member can easily reach.
One good way to achieve this is to use Vowel. It turns virtual meetings into a searchable knowledge base thanks to transcription that’s time-stamped and connected to the meeting recording, notes, and action items.
Any notes you and your team make during the meeting are time-stamped too, so you’ll always be able to go back and get the full context from the recording.
6. Plan ahead
Scrum is all about planning, so make sure your backlog is organized. That will let team members know what to work on next if it happens they deliver on the sprint goals early.
However, even with the best plans and empirical data from previous sprints, scrum doesn’t make you clairvoyant. You can’t predict the future and the development team will likely hit roadblocks during the sprint.
Leave room for adjustments and mid-sprint course corrections. A big part of the agile and scrum frameworks is learning how to deal with changing circumstances without losing momentum, and teams can’t learn that if they're rigidly micromanaged.
Run better sprints with a smarter meeting tool
A good sprint planning meeting aligns the team to the goals that need to be achieved and makes it clear who has to do what to achieve the product vision. But keeping track of all the action items and decisions can be difficult without the right tool.
With Vowel, you can send thoughtful meeting agendas (easily looking back at past meetings), record and transcribe your sessions (it’s built-in!), and assign action items — all in one spot.
Try it out for yourself by signing up for free now!