There are three planning and refinement time horizons — Now, Next, and Later. Sometimes I have referred to these as today, tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow. Reflecting uncertainty, detail reduces as the time horizon extends further into the future.
The trick is to achieve continuous inspection and adaptation of each horizon. A daily cadence provides a construct for frequent consideration of all three horizons. Through this discipline, you will be able to embrace change as it occurs.
The Now time horizon is your current Sprint. You form a Sprint Goal and Sprint Backlog during Sprint Planning. The Sprint Backlog contains selected Product Backlog items and a plan to deliver them to meet the Sprint Goal.
But the Sprint Backlog is not meant to stay frozen in time after Sprint Planning. As learning happens, the team adjusts the Sprint Backlog to ensure they meet the Sprint Goal. This includes adjustment of both the Product Backlog items and the plan to deliver them.
Modification of the Sprint Backlog happens during the Daily Scrum. So the team adjusts to the reality on the ground every day.
Given this, your team can benefit from resisting the urge to over-plan at the beginning of the Sprint. They should plan enough to devise a reasonable game plan but also have a bias for beginning the work. Getting started turns on the learning. And learning will help guide your team‘s path to their Sprint Goal better than the plan.
When we assess our Next time horizon, we are assessing our Sprint Goal for the next Sprint. And we build a shared understanding of the Product Backlog items to meet the next Sprint Goal. This is often referred to as getting Product Backlog items “Ready” for the next Sprint. In Scrum, this an aspect of Backlog Refinement.
We incorporate learning insights into planning for what’s Next. This learning comes from several sources, such as:
- New ideas from the Scrum Team
- Last Sprint’s Sprint Review feedback
- Learning experiments
- Changing business contexts
- Emerging customer needs
- Better understanding of your technology context
When we look into what’s next, we are less detailed than in the Sprint Backlog crafted for the Now time horizon. Refinement for next Sprint focuses more on user needs and goals. We defer detailed planning on how we will do the work until what is Next becomes the Now.
Everything after the next Sprint is the Later time horizon. This is the second aspect of Backlog Refinement. And it includes refinement of the current Release and Product Roadmap goals.
The current Release Plan and the Product Roadmap are goal-oriented. They target customer and business outcomes.
We avoid setting a date and listing features on the Release Plan. Any forecasted dates show as a range based on our level of uncertainty. If we list major feature options on the Release Plan, they are options and nothing more.
While hard to resist the temptation, it is best for a Product Roadmap to have no dates and no feature options shown. This reflects our uncertainty on how we will solve the target goals.
Later planning aims to address a customer need and achieve a business impact. We target key results and outline how we will measure the achievement of these results. As we deliver and learn, we adjust these needs and goals to the reality on the ground.