Can non Scrum Team members participate(not attend) Sprint Planning ?

Last post 09:51 pm February 1, 2021
by Piotr Górajek
10 replies
12:22 pm January 30, 2021

Considering some people said there is a difference between "attend" and "participate" in Scrum exams, and Scrum Guide only mentions non Scrum Team members can "attend" Sprint Planning, my question is:

Can non Scrum Team members "participate" in Sprint Planning ?

Because recently I read from an example mock test and it said non Scrum Team members can "participate" in Sprint Planning but Scrum Guide doesn't say that and I think they can't.

What do you think

03:59 pm January 30, 2021

The exact wording in the 2020 Scrum Guide is:

The Scrum Team may also invite other people to attend Sprint Planning to provide advice.

The word "participate" is not explicitly used with respect to people outside the Scrum Team, but it seems to me like if the Scrum Team is asking them for advice, then they are participating in helping the Scrum Team achieve the objectives of the Sprint Planning session. If the Scrum Team is deviating too far from the objectives of the Sprint Planning session, I would expect the Scrum Master to become involved and ensure the team is focusing on the objectives at hand.


04:05 pm January 30, 2021

No, because they are not participants in any of the commitments which would emerge from Sprint Planning, nor are the relevant accountabilities vested in them.

There's nothing to stop them from being invited by team members in order to collaborate or to lend advice.

04:47 pm January 30, 2021

Ian, if that's the case, then the definition of the word "participate" is very confusing. IMO, if you get asked questions and you answer, you participate.

So what is the word used for the non team members in this case? It's neither "attend" nor "participate".

Does "attend" mean you can be there and talk too?

06:14 pm January 30, 2021

In the Scrum Guide, words are chosen to try and avoid the confusion you describe:

The Scrum Team may also invite other people to attend Sprint Planning to provide advice.

Hence non-participants may attend upon invitation and may talk.

12:42 am February 1, 2021

Hence non-participants may attend upon invitation and may talk.

How is that not "participate"?

If I ask you a question which I then use your response to, to influence the plan - you have participated in developing that plan.

From a RACI perspective, I Consulted with you in developing that plan. That means you Participated.

In the Scrum Guide, words are chosen to try and avoid the confusion you describe:

That's fine, this is a question about the exam...which is testing understanding of the guide by using different language to what the guide uses, hence Benny's whole question in the first place.

06:27 am February 1, 2021

How is that not "participate"?

I'd suggest that the word "participate" may have been avoided for those who do not share the accountabilities and commitments of team members.

Scrum Team members are vested in certain accountabilities and commitments. The framework also recognizes the potential value of collaborating with others who are not.

08:21 am February 1, 2021

The Sprint Planning is about what can be done and how can it be done.

For me participating means that you really participate for the sake of the ceremony. That you are contributing to all goals of the ceremony. While attendees may be there to provide some feedback or additional insight, but do not support the full ceremony.

It is similar to Sprint Reviews, where other stakeholders may attend, but they will neither accept something implemented, nor will they tell how to proceed forward, that will only be done by the DevTeam and PO.

12:19 pm February 1, 2021

Hi guys, thank you for all the replies and advice. I just passed the PSM 1 exam with 92.75 % score.

And there was a question about this thread topic in the exam and in the end I assumed that non Scrum team members can participate in the Sprint Planning(because after I asked a lot of people, most of them thought they can, although I'm not too sure about that).

04:43 pm February 1, 2021

I agree with @Ian Mitchell's answer.  Here is how I understand it.

From the Scrum Guide

Sprint Planning initiates the Sprint by laying out the work to be performed for the Sprint. This resulting plan is created by the collaborative work of the entire Scrum Team.

The participants are there to lay out the work and create the Sprint Backlog.  Any invitees to the event would not be participating in that purpose.  If they are, then they should be part of the Scrum Team (even if for just a Sprint).  

Those invited can provide advice but they aren't making any decisions.  In my opinion this would not be any different than the Scrum Team using a document written by someone outside the team as advice on making decisions. 

People talking in a meeting are participating in the discussion.  But are they participating in the outcome and decisions being made?  Remember that these are not meetings.  They are events that have specific purpose and meaning.  Participation in the purpose of the event, creation of the Sprint Backlog, does not necessarily equate to answering questions.  

09:51 pm February 1, 2021

I think that Scrum Guide does not take a position on that and refers to everyone as "attendees" and focus in some parts on collaborative aspects of interactions. However, the main difference is that if you only attend - it means that you are in the room and pay attention to what is happening. If you participate, it means that you are involved in the activity. For example, you can play a game (participate), or watch a game (attend).

IMHO The moment a stakeholder, a team member, or anyone else who actively shares opinions directly with the Scrum Team during an event (if asked to do so or not) becomes a participant of such event.

If we examine Scrum Guide more closely, then we could even say that the Scrum Team should participate by design, due to the focus on the collaborative nature of an event such as Sprint Planning. The Stakeholders if present but not engaged are attendees until they become actively involved.

To summarize, IMO answer for the question "Can non-Scrum Team members "participate" in Sprint Planning?" is:
Yes, they can.

I think that it is also worth to notice, that answering one question during the whole event is rather not something that commonly most people count as participation, as long as that answer doesn't make a significant impact on the outcomes. Therefore, in order to say that someone participated, it should be linked with the involvement and impact of that person - at least that is what my gut feeling tells me.