Intro to Scrum (8 of 16): What is a Sprint?

What is a Sprint?

Does a Sprint mean we have to go as fast as possible to the end? Is there any time between Sprints? What is the whole point of a Sprint? What is a Sprint? I’m going to explain what the Scrum Guide has to say about the definition of a Sprint and what that all really means to you.

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Sprints are the heartbeat of Scrum. It’s where ideas are turned into value. Each Sprint starts one after another. They’re a fixed length to create consistency. All the work necessary to complete a Product Goal is done within one Sprint, including all five events: Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and the Sprint Retrospective. All Sprints come one after another and there’s no time in between Sprints.

During the Sprint, no changes would occur that might endanger the Sprint Goal. Quality does not decrease. The Product Backlog is refined as needed and scope may be clarified and renegotiated as more as learned.

Sprints enable predictability by ensuring that every calendar month we’re inspecting progress towards the Product Goal. When a Sprint’s horizon is too long, complexity may increase, things may change, and your Sprint Goal might even become invalid. Shorter Sprints can be employed to generate more learning cycles and help reduce the risk even further. You could even consider each Sprint a short project.

Various practices help us to forecast progress including burn up or burn down charts and cumulative flow diagrams. While they might be powerful, they do not replace empiricism. In complex environments what will happen is often unknown. Only what has happened may be used for forward-looking decision making.

One last thing, a Sprint Goal could be canceled if it’s determined to be obsolete. Only the Product Owner has the authority to cancel the Sprint.

Now what does all this mean? We’ve got these Sprints, they’re a fixed length 30 days or less. Why is that the case? So, we’re trying to eliminate risk, or at least mitigate most of the risks due to product development by getting to a short goal very quickly.

At every completion point we can pivot. We can continue forward. We can change direction. We can make changes to the Product Backlog. These Sprints enable agility. These Sprints help us contain the risk of product development. So, when considering your Sprint, make sure that you’re getting all the work necessary to get to a done state within that Sprint. Producing an increment is the whole point of Scrum, and the whole point of each Sprint.

So, use each Sprint to your advantage. Get some done increments, mitigate some risk, generate some value, and your stakeholders will love you for it.

If all of this information about Scrum is interesting to you and you’d like to learn more, please join us in one of our Applying Professional Scrum courses, Professional Scrum Master courses, or Professional Product Owner courses. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact us.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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