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My experience as a developer has always been project milestones were agreed upon in advance and then each sprint is planned just before it starts. For the sake of detail, by planned, I mean agreeing what tasks /stories will be done in the sprint, estimating them and assigning them.

How common is it to plan all the sprints out at once before the kickoff of the project and rejig things as needed?

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Its not Agile or Scrum if you are planning all your sprints at the beginning of the project. That's waterfall.

You may want to read about the 5 Levels of Agile Planning and use the 5 levels as an alternative to traditional waterfall planning if your business is interested in transitioning/capitalizing on the real benefits of Agile and Scrum.

Also, while Scrum planning can include milestones, these milestones shouldn't be tied to a fixed date. Again, thats waterfall. Milestones in Agile are usually customer value sets that make sense and goals where we try and forecast a rough delivery window. The forecast is NOT a commitment to delivery a milestone on a specific day in the project and the forecasted date or date range can change.

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    Upvote, and would add that when forecasting, you can opt to gather and leverage some data about how "off" your planning tends to be, or what is referred to as emerging work. For example, tracking the number of story points spent on totally unforeseen items, risky items that increased in effort, new items added via feedback or user testing results, and so on. – Jeff Lindsey Feb 29 '16 at 22:39
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It's common, but it's not agile.

In Scrum, only the current sprint is planned in detail. That's really the whole purpose of doing a sprint -- do a small amount of work, learn from it, and then decide what to do next.

That being said, the product owner should have an idea of what will go into the following sprint, and possibly the next couple of sprints after that -- if your team is good at estimation. However, it's quite normal at any time for one or more stories to be dropped and other stories added. Spending a lot of time in planning for work that may never get done is wasted time.

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I've managed projects that used a separate wall with columns for each upcoming sprint.

As a sprint gets ready to launch, a quick analysis is made to see if the original plan still makes sense.

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You could do a rough planning of future sprints, where the product owner prioritizes the backlog, and then when the next sprint comes up you do a proper sprint planning session since priorities and issues will have changed.

  • What do you mean by rough planning? Rough planning in scrum could simply consist of the product owner prioritizing the product backlog in the order of the features' importance. If that's the case, then that's totally acceptable in scrum. By the way, welcome to Project Management SE. Check out How to Answer for some tips on being most successful in helping answer questions on our site. Cheers! – jmort253 Mar 2 '16 at 10:48
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    Yes, by rough planning i meant that the Product owner prioritise the backlog and maybe create rough "templates" for future sprints. Note that the scope of these future sprints will change in the sprint planning with the scrum team. – Tim Carno Mar 3 '16 at 13:54
  • Ok Tim. That makes sense. I edited in the info from the comments into your answer. Hope this helps. – jmort253 Mar 3 '16 at 15:32

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