Techniques: Planning Workshop

I’ve heard many people say that Agile is against planning. If you’ve read many of my articles, you’ve probably seen me say something like, “It’s not that planning doesn’t occur in Agile. It’s just done differently.” The question is how.

Instead of laying out every detail upfront and measuring against that plan, Agile plans in chunks as time goes along. And this article is going to talk about how that is done – in the Planning Workshop.

Whether you are using Scrum, DevOps, Lean, or some other flavor of Agile, the Planning Workshop is used to communicate what can be delivered in a time frame.

With a title like Planning Workshop, there might be a tendency to think this is a session for the client. Instead, the goal is to determine what to work on next.


There are 5 elements to the Planning Workshop.

  • Input to the Workshop is an Estimated and Ordered Backlog. 
  • The team velocity, based on previous experience and projected schedules.
  • The goal to be achieved. Often this is an outgrowth of the Ordered Backlog.
  • There is the process of selecting the items from the backlog.  This can include bug fixes, research (Spikes), or any Product Backlog Item.
  • Finally – task planning, where the team breaks down their work and makes individual assignments.

Some important things to note. Most people think of Planning Workshops in the Development Horizon. That’s Sprint Planning, not a Planning Workshop. The Workshops are for the Strategic or Initiative Horizons.

Leading up to the Planning Workshop, no matter which Horizon, the team has estimated the Features in the backlog. 

Also prior to the Planning Workshop, the client or their representative has reviewed the backlog. We know this because it is ordered. This is a session for the Strategy or Initiative teams to decide what can be done in their next cycle, and the results to be communicated with the client.


Planning Workshops are a critical piece to most Agile frameworks.  They are utilized to align initiatives with organizational goals at the strategy horizon or to decide prioritization and sequencing at the Initiative horizon.  Here is where we align features within releases.

Planning workshops determine the intended goal and dates needed, clarifying priorities and details about the features requested.  Once that is understood, the team discusses how to complete the work.

The context is Communications and the Audience is Internal Teams.

Usage Considerations

Some strengths of the Planning Workshop include:

  • Frequent communication
  • Can involve all stakeholders for guidance
  • Because it is focused on a small set of the overall project, it is easier to understand.

Limitations include:

  • The amount of time required to convey a proper understanding
  • How lack of understanding can affect results

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