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Setting the agenda

At a client the meetings tend to wander, a habit the developers try to break but drift back into without realising; so when I came across a chapter on agendas in Jean Tabaka’s Collaboration Explained it offered something of a lifeline. A key point within the chapter is that a good agenda will help make the meeting more productive, giving the Team something to check their progress against and whether the current topic under discussion is helping them achieve their goal. Jean offers example agendas (covering a variety of agile methodologies) at the back of the book, which I had to mould to be a better fit with the organisation.

When I think about meetings I’ve attended in the past, the ones I’ve felt have achieved something have some things in common:

  • I’ve known what the meeting organiser was trying to achieve.
  • I’ve known why they are trying to achieve their goal.
  • I’ve known why I was there.
  • I’ve left the meeting with something, either something to do or new knowledge.

When you think about these things, the components of the agenda become fairly obvious and combining this with Jean’s advice, and examples, I produced a new draft for a simple sprint planning agenda. Once I’d finished my first draft, I went out on the web and searched to see what other people had done, where I came across two good examples:

  1. Good Agenda’s make Great Meeting
  2. The Effective Sprint Planning Meeting

Using these resources,  I further refined my agenda and produced my first proper agenda in a while. The aim is to have each section broken down so that the purpose of the section, and how it helps the team move closer to their final goal, is highly visible.

My New Sprint Planning Agenda

Purpose: To agree on the scope for the current Sprint and understand the size of User Stories.

Outputs: Sprint Backlog, including an initial breakdown of tasks, and team commitment.

Ground Rules:

  • Show respect for your fellow team members
  • No mobile phones or blackberries
  • No side conversations
  • Join the meeting on time

Agenda:

  1. What is the vision for the Sprint?
  2. What are the dates for the Sprint?
  3. Is our Definition of Done relevant?
  4. What is our availability for the Sprint?
  5. Are there any impacts on the team’s velocity?
  6. What do we need to complete to achieve this vision?
  7. Which stories can we commit to?
  8. Does the business accept this commitment?
  9. What is our Action Plan?
  10. Have we met the purpose set out today?

This agenda is by no means cast in stone; the days before each planning meeting I review and make amendments as needed: being properly prepared for the meeting allows for more productive meetings where we only discuss what is relevant. Also, a changing agenda prevents the meeting from becoming stale and boring.