The Scrum Sprint

What does "Sprint" mean in the context of Scrum?

In the world of product management, especially in agile approaches, the concept of a Sprint occupies a central place. It is the basic unit of time in the Scrum framework, serving to plan, organize work and deliver value. What exactly is a Sprint? It's nothing other than a time iteration during which the Scrum Team works on delivering a potentially shippable product. Each Sprint has a Sprint Goal set at the beginning, which remains unchanged for its entire duration.

The duration of each iteration is fixed and should not exceed one month - as prescribed by the Scrum Guide. This way, it ensures monitoring of the Product development along with stakeholders and gathering feedback at least 12 times a year. An important aspect is that Scrum does not foresee breaks between sprints; one Sprint ends, another begins. Such a structure provides a rhythm of work and allows for continuous improvement of the product and processes.

Each Sprint is self-contained - it should lead to achieving the Sprint Goal, thus bringing the team closer to the final version of the product. In practice, this means that at the end of each Sprint, the team should be able to present something of value: a functioning part of the product or service ready for review by the customer. Such a ready element is called an Increment.

In the broader context of Agile philosophy, Scrum promotes adaptability and quick response to changes. This is possible thanks to short work cycles, such as Sprints. Their nature also fits into the idea of continuous improvement and learning through action – key elements for both Scrum and Agile.

Therefore, a Sprint is not only a time unit but also a work philosophy favoring innovation and flexibility - the foundation of success in today's dynamic world of technology and business.

Sprint Planning

The Sprint Planning event is its starting moment. It is the time when Developers, together with the Scrum Master and Product Owner, review the Product Backlog and select those items that will be included in the upcoming Sprint. Before starting the actual Sprint, it's essential to precisely define goals and the scope of tasks, which allows for effective use of the upcoming work period.

At the beginning of the Sprint Planning session, the Product Owner presents the Developers with the priority items from the Product Backlog. They analyze them together, discuss the possibilities of their implementation, and any potential difficulties. The aim of this discussion is to specify the requirements and expectations for each task. The Scrum Master's task at this moment is to facilitate communication between team members and ensure that all issues are clearly discussed and understood.

The next step is setting the Sprint Goal, which should be specific, measurable, and achievable. This goal becomes a guiding motto for the team's actions in the coming work period. Defining the goal focuses efforts and provides a point of reference for assessing progress.

After setting the goal, detailed technical planning follows - Developers decide which tasks will be performed and how they will be divided among team members. At this point, the Sprint Backlog is created, listing tasks to be done in the upcoming Sprint. This ensures transparency of what is to be delivered by the end of the sprint and allows for monitoring work progress. Sometimes these technical discussions take place already during refinement - then planning can focus on prioritization and mutual understanding.

An important aspect is also the risk assessment and identification of potential obstacles that may arise during the Sprint. The team should collectively consider possible scenarios and prepare contingency plans in case of problems.

The scope of work determined during sprint planning must be realistic and adapted to the team's capabilities - it cannot be too small, which would result in underutilizing the team's potential, nor too large, which could lead to unfinished work within the Sprint.

Achieving the Sprint Goal

The team's efficiency in working on tasks during the sprint directly influences the achievement of the product goal.

Daily Scrum events, or simply Dailies, are a key tool for monitoring progress. Team members share information about what they managed to do the previous day, what they are currently working on, and whether they encounter any obstacles that could affect the pace of work. These events are short and focused on exchanging the most important information, which helps maintain the rhythm of work and allows for quick reaction in case of problems.

Tasks performed by Developers can be tracked using a Scrum board or another product management tool. Each task is represented by a card or entry that goes through various stages: from "to do," through "in progress," to "done." This gives all team members a clear picture of the current state of work and allows for more effective collaboration.

Sprint Backlog is the main artifact used throughout the Sprint, that gives vision how to achieve the Sprint Goal, and therefore be align with the Product Goal.

The Product Owner also has a particular responsibility in the Sprint, setting task priorities and delivering value to the customer. His decisions influence which tasks are performed first and how they will affect the final shape of the product.

Sprint Review and Retrospective

The Sprint Review and Retrospective are key elements in assessing work results and processes. They take place at the end of each Sprint.

The purpose of the review is to gather feedback on the work done - showing working software or completed parts of the product. It's important that during the event, all team members have the opportunity to participate and express their opinions. Not only developers but also the product owner (Product Owner), Scrum Master and stakeholders, who can provide valuable feedback, participate in the review.

During the Sprint Review, the team can answer questions such as:

  • What was completed in this Sprint?
  • What problems were encountered and how were they resolved?
  • Was the Sprint Goal achieved?
  • How does this bring us closer to the Product Goal?
  • How can we adapt our Product Backlog?

We can check if our Definition of Done was strong enough for stakeholders to also understand what Done is.

Reviewing the roadmap, budget, market data analysis, and stakeholder feedback

After the review comes the retrospective, which has a slightly different character. It's a time for reflection for the entire Scrum Team on the work process and identifying areas for improvement. The retrospective can focus on three key questions:

  • What went well during the Sprint?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What actions can be taken to improve the next Sprint?
  • How do we implement Scrum Values?
  • How do we actually use scrum, how did it help us?
  • Inspect out Definition of Done
  • If we measure velocity, this could be the moment to analyze and inspect data.

The retrospective is a moment when the team can freely talk about challenges and successes without fear of negative consequences. It's a time for building trust and supporting a culture of continuous improvement.

It's important that both the Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective are conducted in an atmosphere of openness and respect for the work of each team member. They are not only an opportunity to celebrate successes but also to learn from mistakes and continuously develop team efficiency.

Both the Sprint Review and Retrospective are foundations for creating high-quality products and the effective functioning of teams. Through their regular conduct, organizations can respond more quickly to changing market requirements and better adapt their work processes to current project needs.

We do all the Scrum events every Sprint. For Scrum to work we need to adhere to all elements of Scrum, not only chosen few.

Can a team cancel a Sprint?

The Scrum team has the option to cancel a Sprint, but this is an exceptional situation and should occur rarely. Cancelling a Sprint can only happen when the goal is no longer relevant, becomes obsolete.

For example, if the Scrum Team is working on a project to create a new mobile application, and halfway through the Sprint, it finds out that the market has changed its requirements and the application will no longer be needed, the Sprint goal becomes unachievable. In such a case, the Product Owner may decide to cancel the Sprint.

The decision to cancel a Sprint is serious and is usually made by the Product Owner, who is responsible for the value delivered by the product. Before making a decision, the Product Owner should consult with the rest of the Scrum Team and stakeholders - people who have an impact on the project or are interested in it.

However, canceling a Sprint is a last resort. It is associated with costs - both financial and time. The work that the Scrum Team has done up to the point of canceling the Sprint may turn out to be lost. Additionally, canceling a Sprint can disrupt the team's rhythm of work and negatively affect the morale of team members. Therefore, the decision to cancel a Sprint should be well thought out and taken only when absolutely necessary.

To highlight the seriousness of cancelling the Sprint, I can honestly say it only happened to me twice throughout the whole time I have been within the Scrum Teams.