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When selecting user stories from the prioritized product backlog during sprint planning, is it more important to make sure that we end up with our predicted velocity in story points or that we choose the most important user stories?

Consider the following example:

The team feels comfortable committing to 9 story points this iteration. These are the stories at the top of our product backlog (from most important to least important)

  • User Story A - 4 story points
  • User Story B - 2 story points
  • User Story C - 1 story point
  • User Story D - 3 story points

Is it better to choose A, B and C (7 story points, based on priority) or should we choose A, B and D (9 story points, based on predicted velocity)?

  • Please correct the typo in the title :-o spring -> sprint – Falco Apr 18 at 12:16
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This is a really good question, but there is no definitive answer.

Have the conversation with your Product Owner. Explain to them the situation and offer them a choice.

The Product Owner may say that the difference in importance between Story C and Story D is not significant, so they are happy for you to swap them around for this sprint.

Alternatively, they may say that getting Story C done in this sprint is really important to them.

It may also be worth analysing Story D to see if it can be broken down in to smaller stories.

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I really liked Todd's explanantion on how to deal with such situations:

Focus on Sprint Goal, instead of specific Stories.

When prioritising these stories, some will fit better to a concept of a single goal than others. So, instead of focusing on priority or velocity, focus on Sprint Goal. Ok, it's kinda the same as focus on priority.

Besides, avoid the 100% utilization fallacy. It's more important to deliver value (through the Sprint Goal or prioritisation) than trying to use every Story Point available for the sake of Velocity.

Your goal is not to go faster. Is to deliver more value.

1

First of all, it is a good practice to have the SP estimated following the Fibonnacci sequence, where 4 it is not possible.

To answer your question: The Scrum guide specifies that is the Product Owner who will choose the Product Backlog items that should be done during the sprint:

The Development Team works to forecast the functionality that will be developed during the Sprint. The Product Owner discusses the objective that the Sprint should achieve and the Product Backlog items that, if completed in the Sprint, would achieve the Sprint Goal. The entire Scrum Team collaborates on understanding the work of the Sprint.

So in that case it is the Product Owner who has to decide that, where probably in your example could decide to do in this Sprint the User Stories 1, 2, 3 and leave 4 as a challenge US where you do not have engagement.

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