A typical sprint planning meeting

A little while back we took a look at how a sprint usually goes.

Now I think it’s time to take a closer look at the flow of the second most important meeting of a sprint (second only of course to the demo…we’ll get to that later).

As I’ve said, sprints usually start on Monday with the dreaded…I mean anticipated and important sprint planning meeting.

So you waltz in the office on Monday, go and have yourself a coffee, or a cigarette,
or a cup of tea, or pray a lot because you know what’s about to happen for a pre-programmed 2 hour meeting that will inevitably last about 3 and a half.

Bearing this in mind, you console yourself with the fact that your beloved Scrum Master shouldn’t normally expect much work to be done in the first day of the sprint, unless he has no idea how Agile works…oh, wait…

Anywho, the team starts gathering in a meeting room. You decide to take your laptop in order to be able to take notes more easily…not for shamelessly browsing the web of course. The fun of course begins when trying to connect the laptop to the TV screen. Because, even though objects aren’t sentient, they too can smell the uselessness of the next several hours and don’t feel like getting along with whoever drew the short straw and decided to “use his laptop for this meeting”.

As time goes on, you may find yourself gazing through the window, wondering what the people in the mall next to your office building must be doing. Whatever it is, it probably has more logic than whatever seems to be going on 1 meter away from you.

Nevertheless, you bravely endure the first 10 minutes. Then the “Sudden Clarity Clarence” meme suddenly becomes clear, as you realize you have 1 hour and 50 minutes to go. You hopeless optimist.

The next phase of the meeting of course, is getting in touch with the client. Through a series of voodoo magic and dubious phone numbers, you (well, not you, your team) manage(s) to get the client on the line. Cue the useless small talk that no one really cares about, but they do it anyway.

30 minutes into the meeting and you can finally start discussing user stories. Well, it shouldn’t be that hard, right? Plus, since we only have an hour and a half left, people will be short and we’ll be able to get through these easily. You hopeless optimist.

The next variable number of hours, usually two or three, is a seemingly endless series of cat and mouse games, with the cat being the team and the mouse being the number of story points that the current story should have. To those of you unaware, the number of story points a user story can have a certain number of story points, which determine its complexity (to this day, I STILL don’t know how that’s measured…and to those of you who say it should be measured in working hours…you hopeless optimists). The numbers are: 0, 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40, 100. Agile uses the Fibonnaci sequence rules up to a certain point until, much like most people who use Agile, it gives up.

The number of story points is usually given by use of Poker Planning cards, which are packages of cards that contain the numbers above, plus some other extra cards, one with coffee (which means break), one with a question mark on it (the person is clueless as to what the story is about and how complex it is…this card is used WAY LESS than it should be, judging by how a sprint usually goes in the end) and one with infinity on it, probably lost by Thanos during his therapy sessions caused by his endless quest to find the infinity stones.

Anyhow, back to the matter at hand. So people start discussing about the user stories. Some, I’ll admit, will go quite well and people will agree on their complexity quite fast. However, since there needs to be a balance in the Universe after all, some will drag on and on. At first, you’ll probably chip in with some ideas and conclusions but sooner or later you’ll just randomly pick a number and hope you’re not the only one who chose it…because if you do, people will ask why, and you’ll have to give a reason. Usually no one cares about it, they’ll explain what the story is about again, and on the next re-roll, you’ll get to choose “correctly”.

As the stories keep coming because no one knows when to stop and there is this belief that you can jump from a total of 20 story points per sprint (number obtained by summing all the story points given to all user stories) to 80, you will probably find yourself looking for ways to go out of this meeting unnoticed. But you remember that you’re supposed to care, or at least act like it, and resort to computing how much you’re dying inside by the minute.

An eternity later, the final user story comes under discussion. As you look at your watch and realize how much time was wasted on…something or another, you give your final story points estimation for the day and, after a few more debates, the meeting is over. People are of course angry because the meeting lasted way into what was supposed to be their and your lunch break, but at least you won’t have to go through this for another two weeks.

As you walk out of the meeting room, you gradually start looking like a human being again, stop dying inside, at least for a while, and go about your day, thankful you have survived another one of these horror shows. You also wonder what a season of American Horror Story based on sprint planning meetings would look like, all the while realizing that the people who invented Agile, probably though about all of this in a certain house in Roanoke.

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