Giora Morien

For High-Definition Planning, Plan Sprints Backward

For High-Definition Planning, Plan Sprints Backward

Most scrum teams start their sprint planning from day 1 – from the sprint start – and then plan the rest of their sprint moving forward.

This usually results in ‘happy path’ plans that often don’t consider potential risks and pitfalls. Instead of planning how stories and other backlog items would be implemented from start to finish, begin your planning from the sprint end date and then plan backwards.  Start with a clear list of accomplishments that need to be completed for your team to say, “Mission accomplished.” Working backwards will help you to identify the key backlog items and stories that need to be finished in order to reach your sprint’s final destination as well as identify potential disruptions or yet unvalidated assumptions.

Imagine preparing for a family vacation.  When you plan a vacation starting from the starting point, you think mostly of the preliminary steps for beginning your vacation story – airline tickets, hotel accommodations, travel insurance, and the like. But what happens when you get to the airport, bags packed, and realize that your passport has expired! You would never miss this action item if you started planning your trip by visualizing yourself at the gate, and walked yourself through exactly what’s needed to get on the plane. 

By planning your sprint from the goal post, you can effectively prioritize your sprint activities. To continue with the vacation analogy, this prioritization is what helps you identify that spending an hour to ensure that your travel documents are up to date is more important than burning an hour at the mall shopping for a new bathing suit that you might not even need.

When you evaluate your tasks from the endpoint, you don’t miss any crucial tasks or get sidetracked on stories that don’t need to be started to accomplish your goal.

Inject your foresight with 20/20 hindsight by planning your goal sprint backward!

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