Scrambled & Confused? Use Shorter Sprints!

As part of my Dell Agile coaching work, I comparing notes with another coach about a project was talking with collegue today about a team that was going into “scramble mode.”  In addition to being behind, they had a new manager without Agile experience.

My suggestion: Use Weekly Sprints!

You should consider short sprints in the following cases:

  1. New Team / Learning Agile (more time working together)
  2. Uncertain Requirements (more feedback from marketing)
  3. Behind Schedule (more delivery points and visibility)
  4. Prototypes / New Technology (more feedback from engineering)
  5. QA / Hardening Phase (more intergration points)

Shorter sprints (this team is on 3 weeks) have a proven record for boosting productivity, increasing teamwork and getting more accurate results.  As an additional benefit, the new manager gets to experience 3x more planning meetings and become more familar with how the process works.

The reason is simple: more planning means more feedback.

For many, shorter sprints seems contradictory to being more productive.  This aligns with my personal experience.  A team that plans in frequently generally plans inefficiently: long meetings, vauge committments, fuzzy tasks and poor estimates.  In many cases, the team simply does not remember what was planned by the last week!

Shorter sprints, while a lot of work to manage well, are generally much shorter.  Reviews cover less ground, retros are more concise, and planning has less ground to cover.  Weekly planning for a practiced team should be less than 4 hours.

Next time your team stumbles with Agile, consider shorter sprints as a way back to your normal pace.

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