Sprint Planning Is Not The Beginning Of A Sprint


Whoa…wait a minute? Not the beginning of a sprint? Really?

Let me explain first 🙂

Have you ever encountered a condition when a sprint planning took forever and still not reaching a consensus on what stories to choose in the upcoming sprint?

Have you ever been in a situation where a story you choose for a sprint is actually too large?

Have you ever found that Product Owner still need to give long explanation of a story or even worse, Product Owner still confuse what a story refers to?

If you have, then you will need a preparation before sprint planning occurs.

In this article, I will share some of the experiences I did before a sprint planning starts.

Sprint Prerequisites


Apart from sport, I love to bake cookies.

When I want to bake cookies, there are things I need to prepare to make the baking session run smoothly.

First I would make sure I get the right recipe, then I need to make sure I have all the ingredients, then I need to know how much time it took to bake the cookie and whether I have time for that, etc.

Take that as an analogy, in order to have an effective sprint, we need to run some preparations.

Some people call these activities as Sprint Zero, I call this Sprint Prerequisites. But what’s in a name anyway 🙂

Let us discuss more about that below.

Story Telling Session

open book

Story telling is a session (or maybe more than 1 session) when users and stakeholders describe what they need.

In this session, product owner and scrum master will dig their needs deeply.
Development team attendance will be also needed for this activity. One or two member of the team might be acceptable if the team is not fully formed yet.

In story telling session, don’t expect to have detailed story. Let the users express what they need. Breaking those down into epic and stories will come later.

Make sure that you capture the big picture of their needs. After you capture all, make sure you get their affirmation.

In a newly scrum adapting organization, you might also want to remind the users that their requirement can later on be updated based on the update of each sprint.

Backlog Grooming

groomingOnce you get the big picture of the project, it is time to groom those into smaller chunks.
I call that a Backlog Grooming session.

In this session, I recommend the whole team to sit together.
Product owner attendance is mandatory since the development team will need the explanation of the story from the Product Owner.

The input collected from the Story Telling Session should be break down into independent user stories.
Make sure that the stories is independent and small enough. Later on, the stories will be grouped into an epic for a bigger coverage of the requirement.

After you have the User Stories ready in independent form, Product Owner, Scrum Master and the team should prioritize the stories and give the Story Point.

No need to have point to all the stories in this session, just enough stories to start the first sprints.

This activity can be done in the middle of the running sprints later on.

Choosing which story goes to a sprint and breaking those stories into task better not done in this session. Those will be done in Sprint Planning Session.

I wrote an article in my friend’s blog about Backlog Grooming activities. Click here to read about it. 


My message here is simple, since the time box of a Sprint is short, we must have an effective and efficient Sprint.

In order to have that, preparation must be made earlier.

The input for a sprint is user stories, therefore you have to make the input well formed before the sprint starts.

There’s a quote in Bahasa Indonesia, “Sedia payung sebekum hujan” which means “Prepare the umbrella before the rain comes”

Make sure you prepare your stories before you start a sprint.

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