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How Do I Keep Team Members Engaged During Sprint Planning?

Return to Sprint Planning

One of the problems facing many Scrum teams is how to keep team members engaged in Scrum team events. I've walked into so many meetings, watching only one or two members of the team really engaged in what the team was attempting to do. Everyone else is sitting around working on what they were doing before the event began, texting friends or spouses, browsing web sites. So, how do we make sure that everyone on the team is involved, even those who are participating remotely? Here are some tips that I recommend adopting in your Sprint Planning meetings:

  1. Turn off the data projectors! Nothing disengages a team member faster than having all of the information displayed for them on the wall. Come've seen it. You walk into a room -- one person is typing on their laptops. What they are typing (including all of their mistakes) is appearing on the wall. No one is doing anything but watching until the typing is done. You can almost HEAR the wasted minutes ticking away.
  2. If your team is big enough, try this:
    • review two backlog items with the Product Owner. Ask questions until everyone is ready to create a solution and task out the item.
    • have the team split themselves into two sub-groups. Each group takes one of the aforementioned backlog items and goes into a corner of the conference room or team room, works out a solution to the backlog item, and tasks out the solution.
    • after twenty minutes, the team comes back together and does a quick presentation of their solution and their tasks. Questions can either result in modifications to the solution and/or changes, additions, or deletions from the task list. Of course, if the team REALLY misses the mark with the solution, we can repeat the exercise to create a better solution.
    • if the team believes they can complete more backlog items, go back to step A and repeat. If the team believes they have scheduled their limit, you're done.
  3. Get yourself lots of PostIt notes, two or three whiteboards, one or two flip charts, and a digital camera. Encourage LOTS of drawings, notes, and concepts. Take pictures when a concept is completed and move on. Limit discussions to only what is being discussed as viable solutions (in other words, no unnecessary sidebars). Track backlog item risks or problems that can not be quickly solved and make tasks out of them to mitigate or solve them.
  4. If people get into long conversations about "solution A" vs. "solution B" that is no longer discussing the merits of the solutions but, rather, has denigrated into repetition or personal jabs, encourage them to choose one solution and move on (but DO NOT make the choice for them). Teams MUST learn how to examine problems and make quick decisions.
  5. To bring in remote team members, employ telecommunication tools that allow video and audio from all members of the team as well as shared whiteboards that allows everyone to see and contribute at the same time.