Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sprint 4 - Long running Sprint Planning meetings

Since two sprints, we are noticing that the sprint planning meetings are going over 4 to 5 hours! Sometimes, we can't get a conference room, and we are forced to split it into two sessions.

After analyzing the reasons for these long meetings, we realized that our stories were complex and most of the time was spent in discussing requirements in the sprint planning meeting. Many times product owners ended up changing stories after discussing them with the engineers. Product Owners learn about technical dependencies over other stories or they choose to break up a story in a different way after discussions with engineers. Engineers even point out inconsistencies in the stories e.g. xyz tab lists contacts in ascending order, why is the order different on this tab? Most importantly, many times engineers pointed out the missing pieces in the stories.

This dialog between product owners and engineers needs to happen on consistent basis rather than just in a sprint planning meeting. Product owners should consult with experienced team members after writing a story. They can forward the newly written story to an experienced team member and ask for his/her feedback. They can ask the engineers to estimate points for the stories so that they can decide whether to break the story or not.

The team should help product owners to evolve stories. We have constituted a weekly hour long meeting for playing planning poker. Planning poker forces the much needed discussion about future stories between the product owner and the team. But these planning pokers are not sufficient as the focus of the meeting is just to know enough about story so that it can be scored. They should be supported by informal hallway discussions and mailing list questions.

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