Getting Comfortable with Not Signing Up for Tasks in Sprint Planning

In last week’s blog post, I wrote about whether team members should sign up for tasks during sprint planning. I concluded that team commitment goes up Pen Writing Initialswhen names are left off specific tasks during sprint planning, and this is a good thing.

But, starting a sprint without names on any tasks can also feel very unsettling to teams and ScrumMasters who are new to Scrum. So, I want to offer some advice on how to get comfortable with this idea.

If you’d prefer to leave sprint planning with a name on every task, go ahead; have team members sign up for tasks and make sure each task has a name next to it. Do this for perhaps a team’s first five sprints until everyone is comfortable with the process.

Then switch to having people sign up for only about half of the tasks in the sprint. This will be more than enough to get started and probably won’t feel any worse—or any better—than when everything had a name next to it at the start of the sprint.

But it’s an important first step in the direction of getting out of the habit of allocating tasks to individuals during sprint planning.

Do this for two sprints. After two sprints, have team members sign up for only one-fourth of the total tasks in the sprint. At this point, you’ll almost certainly start to see most of the benefits of a real-time sign-up strategy.

You can stop there if you’d like. Or allocate 25 percent of tasks for two sprints and then go all the way to 0.

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Mike Cohn

About the Author

Mike Cohn specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques to build extremely high-performance teams. He is the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile as well as the Better User Stories video course. Mike is a founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance and can be reached at If you want to succeed with agile, you can also have Mike email you a short tip each week.

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