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Dear Agile: Two-Week Sprints – Just Infinite Deadlines?

This post is the latest in Excella’s Dear Agile series of blog posts. Have a question for Dear Agile? Send it to us via our anonymous submission form. DEAR AGILE – I’m not a fan of the idea of two-week sprints. An infinite timeline of two-week deadlines seems crazy to me. Why does Scrum have […]

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May 19, 2017

This post is the latest in Excella’s Dear Agile series of blog posts. Have a question for Dear Agile? Send it to us via our anonymous submission form.

DEAR AGILE –

I’m not a fan of the idea of two-week sprints. An infinite timeline of two-week deadlines seems crazy to me. Why does Scrum have these artificial deadlines, and how can they possibly help us?

— OUT OF BREATH


DEAR BREATH:

It’s true that a deadline every two weeks can do more harm than good. Fortunately, sprints aren’t really deadlines! Deadlines are like rocket launches: there’s chaos if you miss a narrow window of opportunity. But sprints, guided by the Agile principle to “deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months,” are more like commuter trains: there’s always another one right around the corner. Though teams should strive to complete the work they’ve committed to, anything they miss needs only wait a couple weeks to be delivered.

And sprints aren’t just intervals for product delivery. Scrum is built on feedback loops – cycles of action, reflection and adaptation – and the sprint is perhaps the most important of them all. Respecting the sprint time box is less about the consequences of incomplete work, and more about the causes. As one sprint moves into the next, Scrum teams explore:

Each of these benefits is enhanced with a shorter feedback loop, but must be balanced against the need for focus and the team’s experience. Two weeks is a good default for many teams, but it’s not the answer to everything. If your team views sprints with the same crushing terror it does deadlines, consider starting with a longer cycle and moving to shorter ones as comfort levels allow.

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