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Why don’t teams plan out the scope of sprints well in advance of sprint planning?

Why don’t teams plan out the scope of sprints well in advance of sprint planning?

I’m often asked a thought-provoking question that has been common in many Scrum Master and Product Owner courses, and I’ve tackled this question a lot in my Scrum Master and Product Owner courses. 🤔

The question: “Why don’t Scrum teams plan out the contents of their Sprints well in advance of Sprint planning?

Volatile Nature of Agile

Understanding Agile is all about embracing change. 🎯

So why have we adopted this approach?

It’s simply the nature of the work we do as Scrum Masters.

The Agile method embraces the volatility, the changeable nature of our work, the environment, and the context we’re working in. When we decide too far in advance, we risk reducing our team’s flexibility.

Change Is Coming

Therefore, we must ask ourselves, “Is this the most important thing we could be working on today?” The emphasis on this all-important question is that it has to relate to work done not yesterday or a week ago or planned for because we know change is coming. 💡

We have to adapt and learn.

In theory, it may sound logical to sit down as a team, look at your backlog, and say, “We can make 40 points. Let’s just count 40 and say that’s a Sprint”.

But here’s where we must remind ourselves why we’ve gone the Agile route.

Teams need to maintain the flexibility to be able to make changes because every so often, that change comes in and when it does, it changes because it’s essential.

Flexibility is the Agile Advantage

It’s not about rejecting foresight. It’s about maintaining the flexibility to make changes as and when needed because when the change comes, it’s usually significant. By fixing our plans far in advance, we risk discarding all we could learn in the interim.

If we start mapping out the next three months, we will eliminate all our benefits of flexing, adapting, and learning. We lose the ability to follow new ideas and changing needs and struggle to implement new and better ways of doing things discovered during retrospectives. 🔄

Adapt to the ‘now’

We must ensure that we’re working on the most important things and satisfying these needs as we see them ‘today.’

As we journey through the Agile process, remember this – it’s okay to change your mind. We should allow ourselves to find new ways of solving problems as we delve into the ‘how’. This adaptability ensures we’re working on the most essential things, satisfying the needs we see today, not yesterday or a month ago.

I urge all Agile teams to keep this in mind: have an idea of what’s coming up in the next Sprint, but accept that in Sprint planning, you might change your mind. This acceptance is at the heart of being Agile.

Join me for more in-depth insights in my Agile and Scrum courses, we can learn to better embrace the core of Agile – adaptation and continuous learning in the ‘now.

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Agile Coaches page.

If you are inspired by the idea of an online apprenticeship for a scrum master, visit

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

For more information on John McFadyen, visit or connect with John on LinkedIn at

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Keywords: Agile Approach, Sprint Planning, Change Management, Work Volatility

Hashtags: #Agile #Scrum #SprintPlanning #ChangeIsConstant

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author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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