• Anil Jaising

Create an Engaging Virtual Sprint Planning with Liberating Structures - Part 2

Imagine being in a sprint planning event, everyone is virtual. The product owner welcomes everyone and shares his/her power point or a tool like Jira in a screenshare. Each candidate product backlog item is evaluated by each team member and the scrum team together have a discussion on each one of them and they go through the what and how of sprint planning. What can possibly go wrong?? Are you sure every member of the team is fully engaged? Are all cameras turned on? Does every team member get an opportunity to provide their input? How long will the entire meeting take? Will the product owner be engaged and available for the entire duration? Are we going to have a marathon planning event? Will the team be able to collaborate on creating a sprint goal?

Continuing our exploration of Liberating Structures (LS), what if we use a string of LS to facilitate a sprint planning event? I like to share one possible design, but before that we should revisit the purpose of sprint planning and what happens in the two topics, the what and the how.


The sprint planning event is the first event in a sprint, and the entire Scrum team attends. The output is a sprint backlog (containing a forecast and a plan) and a sprint goal that the team can self-organize around.

There are two topics in the discussion

  1. The What: What are we building? - The product owner presents candidate product backlog items (PBIs) with an objective in mind to the development team. the The scrum team collaborates on what to build using past performance and capacity as inputs and crafting a sprint goal

  2. The How: How are we going to build it? - As the development team forms the sprint backlog, they discuss approaches to the how they will build each of the PBIs. This helps them to create a forecast and a plan that can achieve meeting the sprint goal.

So what could be a flow we can consider for a two week sprint?

Flow to facilitate a virtual sprint planning session:

  1. The product owner shares candidate PBIs using a collaborative visual whiteboard which every one can collaborate and add their input. The PBIs have been refined in the past by the scrum team and are ready. The product owner shares any changes to the PBIs between the last refinement and now. Assuming sprint planning - timebox - 10-15 minutes

  2. The scrum team uses Impromptu Networking to share what they know about each PBI and uncover any new unknowns. If a PBI has to be re-estimated they consider that in the various groups. The groups are in pairs and then in groups of 4 - timebox - 30 minutes

  3. The development team discusses the PBIs, estimates and evaluates past performance and capacity to pick the PBIs they believe they can deliver in this sprint. Every team member shares their 15% solutions using the 1-2-4-All micro structure while sharing their solutions on the whiteboard for each PBI for it to be visually available for all. Together they decide which PBIs they will add to the sprint backlog and the scrum team craft a Sprint Goal - timebox - 60 minutes

  4. In the How, the development has a set of product backlog items (PBIs) which they use What? So What? and Now What? micro structure to go over each PBI to decide how will they build each PBI and create a forecast and plan that can achieve the sprint goal - timebox - 60 minutes


1. Use a collaborative whiteboard to share the ready candidate PBIs which can be edited or added to by the entire scrum team

2. Create a video conferencing solution like zoom with breakout room functionality for the event to create the various space and group configurations

Flow in detail:

1. Product Owner welcomes everyone in the virtual call and shares the candidate PBIs - (10 - 15 minutes)

2. Impromptu Networking: In three to five rounds, team members pair up to review each PBI and take 5 minutes to respond to the following invitation - (30 minutes)

Invitation: "What can you share what you know about the PBI? What questions, considerations and estimations come to mind?"

3. Each development team member share their 15% solutions if each PBI can be included in the sprint backlog in a 1-2-4-All micro structure using past performance and capacity as input and discuss a possible sprint goal. When the team come together they craft a sprint goal and pick a set of the candidate PBIs for their sprint backlog - (60 minutes)

Invitation: "Based on the Sprint Goal, past performance and capacity can the PBI be be included in the sprint backlog?"

4. The development team engages in What?, So What?, Now What? rounds for each PBI to evaluate how each can be built? - (60 minutes)

Invitation: Round 1: What have you observed in the discussions you have had that stood out for you to build the PBI?

Round 2: So what tasks will be required to build the PBI?

Round 3: Now what can we do to plan this PBI?

Closing: Once the forecast and plan is constructed the team closes sprint plannings and starts working on the PBIs in the sprint backlog

What questions come to mind when you envision the flow? What would you change or add to my design?