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How Long Should You Sprint For?

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What factors influence the length of your sprint? When you're trying to pick a length between two days and six weeks what factors should you take into consideration? Ash Tengshe, Agile Coach at Capital One, suggests that choosing a sprint length is a matter of balancing forces that want to shorten vs. lengthen the sprint.

Forces that tend to Shorten

  • No Changes: The rule of no scope changes during the current sprint. This means the organization must be able to wait on average 1 1/2 sprints before asking for a change.
  • Closure: The end of a sprint creates a good feeling, it's a chance to celebrate the team's accomplishments before starting all over again (Ilja Preuss).
  • Feedback: This is the chance to reflect on the work completed and how the team performed. More frequent feedback means smaller course corrections each time. (Ilja Preuss)
  • ROI: Every sprint provides an opportunity to deploy new features. (Ilja Preuss)
  • Reliability of Commitment: With shorter sprints it's easier to tell if the commitment can be meet. With longer sprints team the team is more likely to over-commit, thinking they should be able to get that story done. (Paul Oldfield).

Forces that tend to Lengthen

  • Getting to "Done": In some environments it can be technically challenging to get a story finished in a short sprint. (Ash Tengshe). (A previous InfoQ item talked about getting to "done")

Perhaps most importantly Dmitry Beransky reminds us that all of the forces still subservient to the team and what they find works for them.

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Community comments


    by Clinton Begin,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    So what's the next question?

    Clinton ;-)

  • Re: ONE WEEK

    by Bruce Rennie,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I've worked in projects with sprints anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks and haven't really observed any issues that can't be overcome, with any length.

    I suppose the general rule should be "As short as you can manage" simply to allow yourself more opportunity for feedback and correction. But I wouldn't reject the idea of a 6-week sprint just on the basis of that alone.

  • Re: ONE WEEK

    by Mark Levison,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Bruce - I think that Dmitry hit the nail on the head. Whatever works for your team.

    However I would be concerned with sprints that were longer than **three** weeks that they might devolve into a mini-waterfall. I've seen cases where there was a handoff to QA within the sprint.

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