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Preparing for Iteration Planning

Iteration Planning, if done right, can go quickly and painlessly. The objective of iteration planning is to understand what you're attempting for the next iteration and to plan out just enough that you're confident that you can achieve it.

Coming into the iteration planning meeting, you should already have a prioritized (i.e., ranked) backlog. If multiple teams are working off the backlog, the top stories should be divvied up between the teams (i.e., each team should know which stories they will take on). Each team should have sized their top stories (those with the potential to be done in the iteration).

Sizing is important. In order to give a size, the team has to understand the story and what it will likely take to implement it. If they can't give a size, then either the story is too big (and needs to be split) or the goals of the story are not well enough thought out. In either case, you want to discover this before iteration planning.

Another advantage of sizing is that the team can use the story sizes to help determine how many stories they'll be able to take on. Depending on the team size, this might be in the 4-8 range or so. If fewer than that, the stories probably need to be split further. If more than that, your stories might be too small and need to be combined. The former is much more common than the latter.

Coming into iteration planning, you should also have identified if the stories will require dependencies on other teams. If so, it would be a good idea to bring someone who can represent those teams into the meeting. Or at a minimum, to discuss the dependencies beforehand. If you don't do this, than you could end up being unable to commit to the goals (or coming up with provisional goals).

By ensuring that the priorities are clear, the stories are clearly defined and the right size, and that the dependencies are taken into account, your iteration planning meetings will go much more smoothly.

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