Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Choosing a sprint length - Which one is Better..? | Supreme Agile


A frequently asked question that I hear in almost any agile project is what should be the “length” of our sprint? One week, two weeks… and what is the benefit of selecting each length. So, if I want to provide the formal answer I can choose one of the two options: either “A sprint is a fixed time period, from one to four weeks, with a preference toward shorter intervals” (Scrum Alliance) or “The heart of Scrum is a sprint, a time-box of one month or less during which a “Done”, usable, and potentially releasable product Increment is created. 

Now, as you can see, these two written answers will not help us to understand how to choose the correct sprint length of our project, and even more important, what factors should we use prior to providing real answers to our customers. 

Prior to us moving forward, I want to explain the spirit behind these two answers, if you familiar with the Agile manifesto, the team is above all, and this is just one example that demonstrates this because it leaves it up the Scrum team to decide what is the sprint length that will work best for them. This is what we see in most Agile transitions, the experiment with sprint length to determine the best and the most efficient length that works for the team.

In this article, I will provide some guidelines, Tips, and thoughts that will clarify some of the biggest concerns that we are facing while choosing the sprint length.

Main Factors to Consider

There are some basic questions one needs to answer prior to determining the iterations length. The answers to these questions will help us to see the big picture and the most important factors that we need to consider: 
  1. What is the complexity of the project? 
  2. How many teams do we have? 
  3. What is the expected duration of the project? 
  4. What is the organization experience in scrum? 
  5. What are the deadlines that determined by the customer? 
  6. What is the organization culture? 
  7. How responsive the customer is?
  8. What is the team experience in Scrum? 
  9. Do you have the necessary knowledge to handle the job? 
  10. Do we have the Environment factors to support the chosen length (Tools, Frameworks Etc)?
  11.  Do we have supported architectures (Automated frameworks, build system, CI Etc.).?

Advantages Vs Disadvantages 

Short Iterations (1-2 Weeks)

Advantages

  • More retrospectives will lead to more efficient and faster improvement of the process.
  • Short iterations will lead to more pressure that is put on the teams, this pressure (Believe it or not) can help high-performance teams to form even better. 
  • The Product Owner will have an easier work while prioritizing the product backlog.
  • More reviews give the product owner the opportunity to provide more feedback.
  • Short iteration will allow the team to make a much more efficient planning.
  • More reviews will lead to more feedback that generated towards the team.
  • Short iterations will help the team remain in focus during the iteration.
  • Impediments reported and mitigated more often, which will help to increase the principle of, continues improvement.
  • Short iterations will reduce unnecessary Risks that may affect the team.
  • Short iterations will help the team to reduce deliver faster.
  • Short iterations will force the PO and the team to create short stories that can fit into a short iteration (Small stories are easier to estimate and will increase the team capability to deliver them).
  • Short iterations will allow the team to make much more precise estimations and to increase predictability.
  • Short iterations will make it easier for the team to embrace and understand the agile values and principles. 
  • Most Agile coaches (including myself) recommended the use of short iterations. 
  • Most organizations are working with short iterations. 
  • Shorter iterations will allow the team get its capacity and velocity sooner. 

Disadvantages

  • The biggest and most common issue is the “Overhead” that comes with so many meetings that are a mandatory part of the Scrum framework. This issue relevant for both new and experienced teams and can severely affect the team performance.
  • Especially in non-experienced teams that are new to agile, shorter iterations can make team member more stressful due to the short delivery dates.
  • In many cases, Two weeks iterations will make it harder to deliver a high-quality product (Although experienced teams can easily overcome this issue).

Long Iterations (3-4 Weeks)

Advantages

  • When moving from traditional methodologies to agile, it easier to start with longer iterations that will help the team to adapt the concept of iterations. 
  • Longer iterations mean more work that can be added which may increase the team ability to release a real shippable functionality per each iteration.

Disadvantages 

  • The product owner has more opportunities to add more work to the teams.
  • Is it I or longer iterations can lead to mini waterfalls..?
  • The longer the time the team invested in the work, the less focus is generated.
  • Longer iterations will reduce the review meetings that is a key factor in the capability of the product owner to improve the product.
  • Fewer review meetings will reduce the feedback that is generated by the team.
  • Longer iterations mean more opportunities for external and unexpected interruptions.
  • Longer iterations will extend the time almost any scrum ceremonies and plan in particular (Hugh HR killer for the team!).
  • Fewer retrospectives that make it, harder to embrace the concept of continues imprudent.
  • It just makes it harder for the team to forecast the amount of work they can deliver.
  • Longer sprints mean more changes that may arise during the iteration.
  • Iteration of 4 weeks…seriously…? Is it really “Agile”...? 

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