Sprint length to shrink or grow. Jen, one of the Scrum Master I am coaching and mentoring asked recently:
I am scrum master for this team and generally, we do two-week sprints. But, for this sprint the team does not have enough work, so they want to shorten the sprint from two weeks to one week. Can I allow them to do that?
Now, let’s ponder on this question. Take a minute and think about it. What would be your answer? Why?
To answer her original question, I said a big resounding NO! In bold capital letters!
Value of regular Heartbeats
There are many reasons for not allowing the Sprint to shrink or grow. We want the team to pick a sprint length and stick to it, no matter what. Instead of focusing on why we do not allow it to shrink or grow, let’s focus on the positives. Let’s review the reasons and value of staying on the same length. Keeping the sprint length same provides:
- Consistency and a Rhythm for the team
- Repeatable and Predictable Cadence
- Consistent length provides valuable data that can be used for forecasting
- Schedules that are known well in advance, and can be put onto calendar to help block time on key players calendar
- Valuable data they can help team in deciding how much or how little work to take into next sprint
Don’t flush them down the toilet
There are several measurements that are linked to sprint length. Measurements such as:
- Say: do
- Story burn-up
- Release burn-up
- Feature burn-up
You allow your sprint to shrink (or grow) and you are invalidating all the data, you are essentially flushing all these down the toilet!
Use it Wisely
If you have a situation where the team does not have enough work for the next sprint, it might be an indicator of the team not doing backlog grooming; or at a minimum, it is an indicator that the backlog grooming is not done properly.
In a scenario where the team has spare capacity, instead of shrinking the sprint length, the team could do other, very useful activities. They could use that extra time on:
- Refactoring the code
- Learning new stuff
- Cross training within the team
- Spike or research on the next priority features functionality
Sprint’s are fixed length. Scrum does not allow them to shrink or grow. Once the team agrees to a specific length, they have to, rather, they need to stick to it. Fixed length eventually will enable them to settle on a rhythm giving them even heartbeats!
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