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"Sprint": a Misnomer?

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One of agile development's most fundamental concepts is working "iteratively" - running a project by delivering progressively better versions of the product at recurring interim milestones. Each methodology has its metaphoric label for this; the two most prevalent are XP's "iteration" and Scrum's "sprint". Kevin Schlabach talks about how the word "sprint" may be a bad metaphor.

Kevin Schlabach recently posted on how Scrum's use of the word "sprint" often conveys the wrong message to people:

Some people hear the scrum term "sprint" and get confused. They ask, how in the world do we run at full speed all the time and not get burned out?

The sprint metaphor is simply supposed to convey that your goal is so close and visible that you are motivated to put extra energy into trying to reach conveys a heightened sense of awareness and focus allowing you to try and grasp at the goal right away.

It doesn't mean you are supposed to go as fast a possible...For most people, that is the definition of sprinting.

Schlabach goes on to compare agile development to the way a good marathon runner approaches their task. He discusses how it is essential for this runner to check his pace as he goes; the runner must strive to "[paraphrased] hit a 5 min mile on the first mile if they desire to average 5 min miles over 20 miles". Good runners take great care to know whether they're ahead or behind of their goal throughout the entire race; and further, care to know whether they are keeping a "sustainable pace", quite different than the approach of a "sprinter".

Schlabach brings this back to software by using this idea of "pace measurement" to illustrate what he believes to be the real point of a "sprint":

The real point of the sprint is to have a measurement cycle. If you don’t measure progress frequently, you can’t validate that your predictions are working out. By declaring you will take a measurement on a predefined cycle, you can't allow yourself to fall into a deep hole of trouble before realizing you need to dig yourself out of it.

Doug Shimp and Dan Rawsthorne touched on a similar notion in their 'Metaphors of Scrum' article from the Agile Journal:

The Sprint is a "Burst of Energy to Cross a Finish Line"
This is what a sprint is in track and field, and leads to the notion that Scrum's Sprint creates a constant sense of urgency. But do people conclude that they will run out of breath by running as hard an absolutely possible for the duration? What about sustainable pace? We have seen people shy away from this language when they are thinking that work is now going to be a series of exhausting breathless races.

We prefer to think of the sprint not by the speed, but the track. You can see the end line, and you get there in a straight line. The distance is short (30 days or less) that has a clear end point based on the product owner's definition.

"Iterating" at a "sustainable pace" is essential to successful agile development. Does the use of the word "sprint" pull people away from this? Do you have any thoughts or stories to recount regarding this question?

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