Sprint planning
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Difference between Product backlog Grooming, Sprint Planning and Elaboration

Difference between product backlog grooming, sprint planning and elaboration

Cancelled sprint planning meetings, frustrated team because there are not enough stories in the sprint, too many stories to deliver (feast or famine situation) are symptoms of poor planning and lack of discipline.  I usually take the following  3 steps to ensure smooth flow of user stories and high productivity.

Step 1: Pre Planning

Step 2: Sprint Planning

Step 3: Elaboration

Recent debate over value of these activities prompted me write this blog. To make things clear, I would explain each activity in detail:

Pre Planning (Backlog Grooming)

Who: Product Owner and team representatives

When: Mid sprint

What: Backlog grooming (also called maintenance or pre planning) is not a formal ceremony of the Scrum process, but it is advised that PO, BA and team representatives to dedicate 10-15% of every sprint to this activity. During pre planning, everyone helps prepare the scrum backlog for the sprint planning meeting. This usually includes adding new stories and epics, extracting stories from existing epics, and estimating effort( t-shirt sizing) for existing stories. PO identifies candidate user stories (based on priority) for next sprint planning and team representative helps PO to alter list based on technical feasibility.

Why: Groomed backlog will help streamline sprint planning meetings; otherwise, they can stretch on for hours. When product backlog items contain clearly defined acceptance criteria and are estimated by the appropriate team members, the planning process does not have to be tense or overly long. By dedicating a time to backlog maintenance, the team ensures that this preliminary planning always occurs prior to the sprint planning meeting.

Sprint Planning

When: In Scrum, every iteration begins with the sprint planning meeting.

Who: Product Owner and the team

What: At this meeting, the Product Owner and the team negotiate which stories a team will tackle that sprint. Time-boxed to two to four hours, this meeting is a conversation between the Product Owner and the team. During the sprint planning meeting, the product owner describes the highest priority features to the team. The team asks enough questions that they can turn a high-level user story of the product backlog into the more detailed tasks of the sprint backlog. PO to answer questions, clarify acceptance criteria, or renegotiate. Team sizes story in story points based on complexity and effort required. Stories are broken down to tasks and tasks are estimated jointly in hours. Estimation must be done as group as it varies from one team member to another according to individual’s experience. Scrum method encourages collaboration and reduces the risk of underestimating or over estimating any task.

There are two defined artifacts that result from a sprint planning meeting:

  1. A sprint goal
  2. A sprint backlog

Why: Helps Product Owner to decide which stories are of the highest priority to the release and which will generate the highest business value, but the team has the power to push back and voice concerns or impediments. This is a good thing since the team may be aware of a legitimate impediment keeping the team from moving forward. This helps team to work out their capacity, plan stories according to capacity and commit to a realistic target. Setting unrealistic target and not achieving it sends a negative signal to stakeholders and affects team morale.

Warning !!: Some teams may under commit and over deliver.


Who: PO, developer and tester

When: Each of these “levels” of requirements are addressed progressively at various points in the sprint. Usually before starting a user story. The product owner should be available for consultation if the development team needs further clarification on requirements throughout the day.

What: In order to actually develop a user story you need to consider several levels: Themes or Epics; Features; Stories; and then the nitty-gritty details associated with Stories. Progressive elaboration of user stories just means that big user stories are broken down into smaller ones and filled up with more detail when they appear closer to implementation

Why: Whenever the development team tackles a new user story, elaboration ensures that any unanswered questions about it are answered so that development can proceed. The product owner works with the development team to elaborate user stories, but the development team should have the final say on design decisions.

Hope this explains why we have various ceremonies and what value they add to the successful delivery of sprint objectives.

Keeping agile simple, pure and meaningful.

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  1. […] This caused loads of pressure for the discovery/user research team and a frustration, ‘feast or famine‘ situation for the build […]

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