Thursday, February 1, 2018

Timeboxing in Agile | Supreme Agile

An agile project depends on a repeatable period of time called "Timeboxing", A timebox is an agreed and limited box of time that is used by a person/team to perform a dedicated activity. Now it's easy as its sound, once the Timeboxing is agreed and set, the team/person will work to complete a goal within this time, once the time limit Is reached the work is stopped (The team is not allowed to continue and the work is stopped) and evaluated against what was accomplished until now. 

To understand the real meaning of a timebox, we must first see the full picture of an agile project that is based on less upfront planning which makes is more adaptive but very not predictive. Now, to get a high level of productivity, an agile project needs to use a predictable schedule with small repeatable time-boxes. 

To demonstrate this point, let’s take an example of a project that has 100 units of work that the team need to deliver, now based on the team velocity (Average work units that the team can forecast to deliver per iteration) the team can handle 5 units per two weeks (Which is the timebox of the sprint). So, if the team can deliver 5 units per timebox of two weeks, we now can predict that the entire project should end after 20 sprints which allow the organization to increase the predictability of the project.

Types of time boxes

There are two important types of time boxes that can help us to understand what can be done when the team arrives at the end of a time box.

Soft Timbox

The first type called "Soft" time box, when a soft time box ends, there should be a conversation about rather the team can continue to work on a task until completion (sometimes it's worth it).

Hard Timbox

The second type called "hard" time box, when a hard time box ends, there is no room for any discussion and the team should stop their work without any coloration to the remaining work that needed to be done for completing an item.  

Timeboxing in Scrum

So, I already explained how we can use timeboxing to increase the predictability of a project based on the iteration length, but timeboxing is used in many other locations in scrum:

Daily Scrum meeting

This meeting is timeboxed to 15 minutes for each 24-hour period, during this meeting, the team can focus on the iteration goal, synchronize, and talk about the impediments that should be handled.

Sprint Planning

The sprint planning meeting is timeboxed at 2 hours for a one-week sprint and may go to 8 hours for a one-month sprint. During this meeting, that team will set the sprint backlog and spring goal.

Sprint Review

The sprint review meeting is timeboxed at 1 hour for a one-week sprint and may go to 4 hours for a one-month sprint. During this meeting, the team will demonstrate the completed work and will get feedback for the quality of their work and to update the PB accordingly.

Sprint Retrospective

The sprint planning meeting is timeboxed at 45 minutes for a one-week sprint and may go to 3 hours for a one-month sprint. During this meeting, the team will identify the areas that need to be changed to allow the team to perform at the highest level.

Timeboxing and its benefits

Motivates the team

Timeboxing is a great mechanism to improve team motivation, the idea of providing the team a hard deadline that specifies the end date of each ceremony/sprint will help the team to concentrate and focus on the main goal instead of a reduced sense of urgency regarding the completion of the work.

Improves predictability

Timeboxing improves the organization's ability to predict what will be the expected results at the end of the sprint based on current team progress for a specific time. This will not allow the organization to get clear and accurate results each time but can provide a good idea of what can we expect to receive at the end of the working cycle. 


Increase focus

Timeboxing will help the team to remain in focus regarding what they need to do to achieve the iteration goal. Because the iteration is limited in time, the team knows that there is no time to waste on some unnecessary activities that may affect their ability to deliver their commitments on time.

Protect the team

How can timeboxing actually benefit the team? Well, it’s simple, timeboxing allow the team to take the amount of work that they can actually deliver at the end of each iteration without taking over commitments that can affect their ability to succeed.

Clarification of Time

Timeboxing is a great method for both the team and organization with clarification of time remaining and time that is already spent per iteration.

Clarifies progress

We can use timeboxing to determine the work progress of the team throughout the iteration, this is simple, all we need to do is to see the work done until specific moment and compare it to the preliminary expectations. 

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