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Iteration Pre-Planning

An optional planning session to make the Iteration Planning Meeting (IPM) more productive if needed.

Phases
  • Delivery
Suggested Time

30 min - 1 hour

Participants

Product managers, 1-2 engineers


Why do it?

If a team finds that an excessive amount of time in the Iteration Planning Meeting (IPM) is spent on revising stories before estimation, editing or grooming them in a smaller group beforehand can help the larger meeting produce better results.

When to do it?

  • Shortly before IPM
  • Only when it is needed

What supplies are needed?

A product backlog, or set of stories that may be promoted to the product backlog, which are not necessarily ready to be estimated

How to Use this Method

  1. Before you begin, decide as a team whether the outcomes of your iteration planning meetings (IPMs) even make iteration pre-planning necessary. Common indications include:

    • IPM often ends with fewer stories estimated than needed to keep up with velocity
    • IPM often runs over the allotted time
    • Estimation is often derailed with “bikeshedding,” leading to disengagement or frustration
    • Story scope is often adjusted before estimating
    • Stories often lack important or necessary details prior to estimating
    • The team often makes extensive revisions to story language during IPM

    Invite the tech lead, or a volunteer engineer who is sensitive to the causes of these problems.

  2. Choose the first user story that you intend to be estimated in IPM, and read it closely as a group. If any typographical errors, placeholders, or other simple corrections are needed, perform them as you go.

  3. Ask the engineer(s) to make any questions, comments, requests for clarification, etc. that would be necessary for them, or which they anticipate being necessary for the team, to decide they are ready to estimate. (Do not estimate the story until IPM.)

  4. Discuss and revise the story accordingly in order to minimize these concerns.

    If the needed changes can’t be resolved during this meeting (for instance, if it is found that more research is needed), remove it from the list of stories prepared for IPM and follow up afterward.

    Not every concern needs to be caught. After all, one engineering pair can’t be expected to replicate the insights of an entire team. Focus on quickly resolving the aspects most likely to be problematic or disruptive during IPM.

    Discussion of how to avoid these problems in the future is appropriate as well.

  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for the remaining user stories that were prepared for this meeting.

Success/Expected Outcomes

You know you are done when all stories staged for IPM are ready to be estimated according to the engineer(s) present. You know it’s working when improvement is observed in the issues identified in Step 1.

Facilitator Notes & Tips

  • Iteration pre-planning tends to be a relatively informal discussion without heavy facilitation.
  • The outcome doesn’t need to be perfect, only serve as a “first pass” to catch the issues most likely to provoke waste on unwanted tangents.
  • Because of their involvement in writing them, engineers who attend iteration pre-planning are in a position to help advocate for the product direction expressed in the stories during IPM.
  • Iteration pre-planning can be a great opportunity to get detailed feedback about story quality, and for all present to improve as story writers.

Variations

None at the moment.

Preceding

None at the moment.

Following

Iteration Planning Meeting (IPM)

Real World Examples