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Who Collaborates on Understanding the Work of the Sprint

By Miranda Dulin
Published in Inspect & Adapt
January 03, 2024
6 min read
Who Collaborates on Understanding the Work of the Sprint

Understanding the work of a Sprint is like crafting a tapestry. We untangle diverse threads of perspectives and then weave them into a unified narrative.

Who Collaborates on Understanding the Work of the Sprint

The entire Scrum Team collaborates on understanding the work of the Sprint. Yet, navigating diverse perspectives and fostering a cross-functional shared understanding can present unique challenges.

This fact used to be more clearly stated in the 2017 version of the Scrum Guide:

“The entire Scrum Team collaborates on understanding the work of the Sprint.”

- Scrum Guide 2017

Though the 2020 version isn’t as pointed, it still supports the idea that the entire team should understand the work.

“The Scrum Team may refine these items during this process, which increases understanding and confidence.”

- Scrum Guide 2020

How Developers Collaborate on Understanding the Work of the Sprint

As a Developer, you contribute toward a shared understanding of the work by ensuring that the Scrum Team accounts for the technical perspective. Your technical knowledge helps assess the feasibility and complexity of Product Backlog Items.

In Sprint Planning, you’ll offer estimates based on your expertise, identify potential challenges, and propose solutions. You can actively participate by asking clarifying questions and sharing your insights. Helping to decompose user stories into right-sized work items is another contribution you can make. Your input is crucial to ensuring a comprehensive and feasible Sprint Plan.

Do your best to guard against common pitfalls that obstruct a shared understanding. Avoid assuming shared knowledge. Just because you know something doesn’t mean that everyone else does. Ensure you cover pertinent technical aspects while paying attention to critical non-technical facets vital to the team’s understanding. Embrace input from others and consider diverse perspectives. It’s about building a shared view of the situation. Everyone in the room has a few different threads to contribute, and each strand can change the overall picture.

Seek clarifications whenever uncertainty could lead to underestimating the required effort. It’s unlikely to matter whether the button needs to be orange or blue, but it’s essential to know the expected behavior of the button if there is a chance that complication logic is required.

How the Scrum Master Collaborates on Understanding the Work of the Sprint

As a Scrum Master in Sprint Planning, your expertise fosters a shared understanding and ensures the team considers the Scrum perspective. Utilize your facilitation skills to keep the meeting focused, time-boxed, and ensure all voices are heard. Guide the team in following Scrum principles and practices, ensuring adherence to the Scrum framework. You’ll want to encourage collaboration, mediate conflicts, and promote a culture of openness and transparency. Additionally, you’ll want to offer insights into process improvement opportunities, help refine user stories, and support the Product Owner in prioritizing Product Backlog Items based on value.

Scrum Masters should guard against several pitfalls in Sprint Planning to ensure a shared understanding within the team. Instead of dominating discussions, foster an environment where diverse perspectives are encouraged. Address team dynamics promptly, facilitating conflict resolution to maintain a collaborative atmosphere. Balance adhering to the Scrum framework against remaining flexible to cater to unique team needs. Ensure complete and transparent communication, clarify goals, roles, and expectations, and actively seek and value feedback from team members. Steer clear of micromanagement. By mitigating these pitfalls, Scrum Masters can effectively facilitate a conducive environment for shared understanding during Sprint Planning.

How the Product Owner Collaborates on Understanding the Work of the Sprint

As a Product Owner in Sprint Planning, your expertise is crucial in ensuring a shared understanding and accounting for the perspective of business value. You should bring a clear vision and knowledge of the product, articulate the product backlog items’ business value, and prioritize them accordingly. Your domain knowledge, market insights, and understanding of customer needs are essential in guiding the team toward delivering valuable increments. Additionally, being available to provide clarifications, refine user stories, and collaborate with the team throughout the planning process enriches the discussion. Your ability to communicate the business context, define acceptance criteria, and align the team’s efforts with the product vision is instrumental in achieving a shared understanding focused on delivering valuable outcomes.

In Sprint Planning, Product Owners should guard against several pitfalls to ensure a shared understanding within the team. Avoid unclear visions or frequently changing priorities. Instead, emphasize a clear product vision and consistent prioritization based on business value. Provide comprehensive requirements and acceptance criteria, avoiding ambiguity or incomplete details. Engage stakeholders, consider their input, and communicate their needs effectively. Avoid micromanaging or imposing solutions. You’ll want to make yourself available for clarifications. You’ll want to foster collaboration with the team by valuing the input and feedback others provide. By mitigating these pitfalls, Product Owners can facilitate a conducive environment for shared understanding.

Developers, Scrum Masters, and Product Owners all have a unique perspective of the work. As they contribute their distinct expertise, the steps needed to accomplish the Sprint Goal become clearer. Each contributor’s diverse perspective fills in different elements of the overall picture of the work. Merging these perspectives into a cohesive understanding doesn’t occur effortlessly.

Boy holding tangled light strand
Creating a shared understanding resembles untangling decorative lights: untangle preconceptions, align direction, and ensure everyone actively contributes and comprehends for illumination.

Differences in priorities, communication styles, and technical viewpoints can create pockets of misunderstanding. Overcoming these challenges requires active listening, effective communication, and a commitment to fostering an environment where each viewpoint contributes to a richer, shared understanding of the Sprint’s objectives and goals.

This highlights the significance of the second C (communication) within the 3Cs framework. Achieving alignment among team members becomes challenging without conversations. Despite specifying acceptance criteria for user stories, relying solely on documentation leaves gaps quickly bridged through face-to-face communication.

One of the core principles from the Agile Manifesto points this out another way.

“The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”

- Agile Manifesto

Fostering Cross-Functional Collaboration

A common misconception is that only the development team is involved in comprehending and executing the work defined for a Sprint. This misconception neglects the importance of cross-functional collaboration.

Promoting effective collaboration among different functional areas within the Scrum team requires deliberate strategies and methods. Encouraging open communication channels is foundational; establishing regular meetings, like daily stand-ups and Sprint Reviews, fosters interaction. Emphasizing a shared goal and vision helps align diverse perspectives toward a common objective. Implementing cross-functional training or knowledge-sharing sessions bridges gaps in understanding while rotating team members across tasks cultivates empathy and appreciation for varied roles. Utilizing collaborative tools and platforms streamlines communication and enhances transparency. Moreover, fostering a culture of respect and appreciation for diverse viewpoints encourages active participation, creativity, and collective problem-solving. These strategies facilitate synergy among functional areas, leading to more cohesive collaboration within the Scrum team.

Ensuring Shared Understanding

Ensuring a shared understanding within a team involves continuous communication, active engagement, and clarity in conveying objectives and expectations. When a shared understanding exists, team members align on goals, tasks, and approaches. Signs of shared understanding include unanimous clarity during discussions, consistent agreement on objectives, and cohesive actions reflecting collective comprehension. Conversely, signs that a shared understanding is lacking include repeated misinterpretations, conflicting views, or a lack of consensus during discussions.

Approaches to fostering a shared understanding vary. Regular meetings, like Sprint Planning or daily stand-ups, aid in clarifying tasks and goals. Utilizing visual aids such as diagrams, prototypes, or user story mapping enhances comprehension. Encouraging open discussions and inviting questions helps uncover differing perspectives and clarify uncertainties. Collaborative workshops, cross-functional training, or role-playing scenarios also facilitate empathy and insight into diverse viewpoints. Feedback mechanisms and retrospectives also play a crucial role in gauging understanding, highlighting areas needing clarification or improvement. Ultimately, transparent communication, active listening, and a willingness to embrace diverse perspectives are fundamental in achieving and maintaining a shared understanding within a team.

The Impact of Effective Collaboration & Shared Understanding

A shared understanding is the linchpin for team empowerment and enhanced cross-functionality within a Sprint. When every team member comprehends the Sprint’s tasks, anyone can contribute, fostering a collaborative environment where individuals feel empowered to engage without hesitation. Unlike scenarios where some feign understanding to avoid asking questions, a shared understanding encourages open dialogue and inclusive participation. This inclusivity boosts empowerment and significantly improves the quality of deliverables. Analogous to a tapestry, a shared understanding weaves multiple threads of insight, enhancing the richness and depth of comprehension. Just as a tapestry with more threads creates a more detailed depiction, a shared understanding involving every team member yields a more comprehensive and nuanced view of the Sprint’s work, ultimately leading to higher-quality outcomes.

Works Consulted

  • Scrum Guide
  • Scrum Guide November 2017


Just as a vibrant tapestry comes alive with multiple threads, a shared understanding emerges from the diverse perspectives and collaboration among Developers, Scrum Masters, and Product Owners. This cohesion empowers teams, allowing anyone to contribute and fostering a cross-functional environment. Much like how a tapestry gains depth and definition with every added thread, a shared understanding enhances quality and ultimately leads to more comprehensive and successful outcomes.


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Product Increment
Miranda Dulin

Miranda Dulin

Scrum Master

Table Of Contents

Who Collaborates on Understanding the Work of the Sprint
Navigating Diverse Perspectives for Collaboration
Fostering Cross-Functional Collaboration
Ensuring Shared Understanding
The Impact of Effective Collaboration & Shared Understanding
Works Consulted

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