There are generally 3 levels of planning that occur in agile project management practices. First, the Project Roadmap outlines high-level components that you wish to accomplish. Then, iterations help you break the whole project into manageable chunks, allowing you to build your project iteratively as you move forward. Finally, in the stand up, your team plans tasks for the day, discuss together what will be accomplished during the day and the potential obstacles you will face.
Following last week’s Planbox Tips on benefits of doing iteration reviews, this week, we stay at the level of iteration planning, and discuss about 4 key elements that will help you run an iteration planning meeting efficiently.
1. A Groomed Project backlog
A disorganized project backlog can quickly become the land of forgotten dreams. It should be reviewed periodically to ensure the relevancy of the items. Ideally, the items should be arranged by priority to reflect the roadmap, hence making the planning of iterations more convenient. In Planbox, labels can be used to identify related items and to map items to big roadmap efforts.
The project leader (e.g. product owner) should select in advance some top-priority items from the Backlog, so that the team members can then discuss and break them down into more detailed tasks during the iteration planning meeting. While usually this is done by stacking items at the the top of the backlog, in Planbox, you an keep your selection organized by putting items in future iterations tabs.
2. Iteration Objective or Theme
At the start of the iteration planning meeting, it helps to give a sense of direction to your team. By setting a goal or theme, you’ll stay more focused when choosing together items you want to accomplish for the iteration. Moreover, your team’s efforts are more efficiently used when concentrating on specific parts of project at a time.
3. Truthful Team Capacity Estimation
Resource allocation is hard because realistically, it is done based on a guessing game. Team capacity is only useful for planning if the submitted estimations from each team member are honest. Whether time or velocity points are used for team capacity estimations, it’s important to have a reference point to base estimates on. In addition to truthful personal estimates, team members must also define and agree upon the completion criteria of items. In all, the team should agree that the chosen items are possible to accomplish during the iteration.
4. Anticipation of Roadblocks
As team members take ownership of several items for the iteration, it’s important to discuss the potential obstacles that each can encounter, especially if there are dependencies. On the other hand, anticipate that sometimes things can go very smoothly, so include a few extra challenges that your team to start to work on, giving them a preview of the next iteration.
In sum, as it is advised to do for most meetings, show up prepared, begin with objectives, discuss truthfully and conclude with a direction for the next meeting. Meetings easily become tedious and frustrating if people feel that they are a waste of time. With these 4 elements there to help everyone stay on topic, iteration planning meetings can occur more efficiently.
What other elements do you think are important? Please share in the comments below.
Coming up next week:
How to optimize the usage Roles in PlanboxAmanda Fong