Article Overview 

The sprint planning meeting is among the most integral scrum ceremonies. It symbolizes the beginning of a sprint and is critical for the sprint’s success. 

Table of Contents

  1. Challenges Associated With Remote Sprint Meetings
    1. Communication Issues 
    2. Low Motivation Levels
    3. Too Many Distractions
  2. Tips For Running Effective Remote Sprint Planning Meetings
    1. Be Prepared
    2. Use The Findings Of The Last Sprint Retrospect To Improve Performance
    3. Use The Best Tools For The Job 
    4. Communicate Twice
    5. Be Receptive To Suggestions 
    6. Respect The Roles 
  3. Final Thoughts

The main goal of the project sprint is to deliver an acceptable product to the customer that adds value to the project. It’s imperative to keep the bigger picture in mind and cover everything that may have an impact on the project during the planning stage. Decisions about the sprint such as its goals, backlog, and prioritization of tasks are planned during this meeting. Additionally, these meetings help team members understand the definition-of-done (DoD), which brings everyone on the same page for the coming sprint.

When you are working with remote teams, having an engaging, fruitful, and efficient meeting becomes even more vital.

Challenges Associated With Remote Sprint Meetings

Establishing and running an agile team is quite challenging with distributed teams. Team members cannot fully participate in the sessions, and it is hard to get everyone on the same page. There are many challenges associated with remote working, and most of them are not specific to sprints only. A majority of problems people face stem-out from the following three issues.

Communication Issues

Modern video communication platforms like Zoom make it easier for remote teams to conduct meetings and share ideas. However, they are still far from replacing the effectiveness of face-to-face communication. From problems with faulty connections to the lack of engagement, the project manager has to overcome many challenges during an online meeting.

One significant challenge product owners face is aligning the sprint goals with the overall vision of their project. Answering high-level questions and making sure everyone understands the reasoning behind different tasks is essential for maintaining cohesion within the team. This problem exists for co-located teams but becomes even more pressing when everyone is working remotely.   

Low Motivation Levels

Another problem remote teams face relates to their motivation levels. This problem is especially prevalent among team members who had to suddenly shift to remote work due to any issue. It is a known fact that demotivated members can’t perform consistently and meet the expectations of their managers. Effective managers take this issue very seriously and come up with innovative ways to keep their teams motivated.

Too Many Distractions

Distractions are another huge problem people face while working remotely. As people don’t work with any oversight, they tend to procrastinate and waste their time in non-productive things. Similarly, they struggle to manage their personal and professional responsibilities, which diminishes their overall performance.

Tips For Running Effective Remote Sprint Planning Meetings

We’ve compiled a list of easy-to-implement tips so you can run better sprint planning meetings with your remote teams:

Be Prepared

Product owners must list out the priority tasks, dependencies, test cases, and other relevant information before the meeting. Make sure your meetings are to the point and don’t extend over the preset time limits. Moreover, team members also get more time to go through important information and ask questions to clear out any confusion that may cause problems at the later stages of the sprint.  

Take meeting minutes and note down action items and share with everyone in the team so nothing falls through the cracks.

Use The Findings Of The Last Sprint Retrospect To Improve Performance

All agile methodologies are iterative. They require you to learn from your past performance and use that experience to ensure better results in the future. Before the planning meeting, it’s important to make sure you address the issues identified in the last session. During the meeting, you must also inform everyone about how you addressed those issues. Repeating the observations would serve as a reminder to not repeat the same mistakes and boost the confidence of your team members, encouraging them to share more problems with you. 

Use The Best Tools For The Job

You might have the best plan in mind for your meeting, but you’ll fail in conveying your message without the right tools. It is especially true in the case of remote teams as they are at the mercy of their communication software. Having a meeting where participants have to often repeat themselves and drop the call due to quality issues would be counter-intuitive. Everyone will waste their time without achieving anything and they’ll also have a hard time collaborating.

You need three tools for running a successful remote scrum meeting:

  • An excellent video conferencing tool
  • A proper microphone, camera, and internet connection
  • A comprehensive project management tool so you can reference backlogs and manage priorities

Communicate Twice

Effective communication ensures that everyone involved is on the same page. Teams that communicate during meetings and planning sessions tend to perform significantly better than those who don’t. 

For a sprint planning session, the two entities that must communicate properly are the product owner and team members. Product owners need to ensure alignment of the sprint goals with the product vision. They are also responsible for delivering key information like task priority, success criteria, test cases, etc. For the team members, communication is important as they determine the user stories for the sprint and decide how to execute their plans. They also need to ask questions to better understand the requirements of the sprint and act accordingly. 

Be Receptive To Suggestions

Flexibility is a basic requirement for agile leaders irrespective of the location of their team. Listening to suggestions and then making appropriate changes is the sign of an effective leader who inspires the team members to perform at their best.

Respect The Roles

Another effective tip for distributed and co-located teams alike is to show respect to the assigned roles. Scrum describes the responsibilities of each role during the planning sessions and the sprint itself. For example, product owners and scrum masters cannot dictate how much work the team should commit to for a sprint. Similarly, team members should not interfere with the product owner’s job by ignoring the priority or determining the user requirements. 
Remote teams need to be extra careful with this issue. Most of the time, people communicate via text of emails which can leave a simple message to a lot of interpretations. Too much involvement stems negativity, which can severely affect the team’s performance. Use a single point of communication so everyone’s on the same page.

Final Thoughts

While the best practices of co-located sprint planning meetings apply to their remote counterparts as well, there is an even greater focus on communication and visualization of the project. Managing remote meetings may seem overwhelming, but you can reap all the benefits by communicating effectively and by using the right project management tools for the job.