Scrum. Do Not Plan. Really. -- Cartoon -- February 12, 2007

Welcome back to a new week at
One of the things I hear often — usually with teams who are using only partial Scrum practices — is the quote, “This is Agile. We do not plan.”

Ug. Nothing can be farther from the truth on this one.

Scrum is not a license to be a hacker.

Scrum is not a license to pick and choose selective parts of the practice for you to implement.


Scrum is not a silver bullet.

That being said, why am I so adamant about wanting to strangle people when they say, “This is Agile. We do not plan.”

I am glad you asked (smile).

From Mike Cohn, we know that in Scrum there are three levels of planning. The first is Release Planning. The second is Iteration (or Sprint) Planning. The third is Daily Planning.

I will examine each planning cycle from what I understand by doing it on a daily basis. For other information about this (more details, etc.) see Mike Cohn’s book(s). Remember the following views are what I have learned through practice….

— Release Planning

This is accomplished through the use of the Product Backlog.

One of the common themes a Product Backlog helps answer is, “When we you be done?”

Remember in Waterfall Projects a Project Manager is handed a date (usually out of thin air) and then, come hell or high water, a project is decalred “successful” on that date. Sometimes to the dismay of the team who knows things were cut (think quality). I know this is just one example of what can happen, but it does. All too often (and before Agile I was guilty on both sides of doing this).

With projects using Scrum, the Date and Budget are fixed. Scope is move able. See this posting. How is this different than a Waterfall Project? For me, it means that the team has an active discussion with the Product Owner about what is happening in reality. Sometimes is sucks. But. These discussions need to happen. Welcome to one of the joys of being a ScrumMaster!

How do you do Release Planning with the Product Backlog? After the first Iteration / Sprint or two, the team has a good idea of the velocity. If you are using Story Points, you take the total number of Story Points, divide it by your velocity, and it will tell you how long the Release will take.

That’s it. It is that simple.

The discussions that take place can be tough. Life can be that way.

— Sprint (Iteration) Planning

This is done by taking the highest priority stories off of the Product Backlog. And the team having a discussion with the Product Owner about what the team can during the Sprint. Estimate out the stories (sometimes using ideal days / hours). And again, have a conversation with the Product Owner about what you can do as a team.

Pretty reasonable. Again…. tough to do.

And stick to it. Keep the Product Owner on task for making sure NOTHING else (other tasks) get into the current Sprint. This is a hard thing. Again, it gets easier with time!

— Daily Planning

Say it with me… “Daily Stand-up Meeting” (or “Daily Scrum”). And… what are the three questions?

1) What have you done since the last stand-up?

2) What will you complete before the next stand-up?

3) What is in your way?

That’s it. People can “talk” to the task cards, or they can talk “to” a user story. It depends on what the team likes doing. Let the team decide. Let the team waffle on this for a while, and allow it to change over time. The important thing is that people are talking. Communicating. And keeping it to fifteen minutes.

Read that last sentence… in case you forgot… Keep it to fifteen minutes!

So, with all this planning happening, can you really say that Scrum has no planning?

If you still do think that… maybe take a look at how your team is implementing Scrum.

Gotta run…

Please send comments, questions, criticisms, ideas, or whatever here.

You can also enter The Scrum Community to discuss this cartoon and other Scrum topics. Thank you!

Originally Published:
February 12, 2007
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