The Day Between Sprints

May 6, 2011 CollabNet VersionOne

All Teams are different, but there are a few things that are quite common. For example, many of the Teams I coach try to limit the amount of time they waste; in particular, they try to limit the amount of time they spend between sprints. This time is reserved for the Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, and Sprint Planning, and they often try to do all of these things in one day.

This is a reasonable thing to want to do, and there are two patterns I have seen be successful. The first pattern does it all in one Calendar day, and the second spreads the day across two Calendar days. In the second case, there is the Review the first afternoon, Planning the next morning, and the Retrospective in between – wherever it fits. In either case, one of the most important things to do is make sure that there is enough time between the Review and Sprint Planning in order to revise the priorities of the Backlog based on the feedback received at the Review. In the first case, there is lunch-time, and in the second, there is the evening.

Now, Ken Schwaber makes suggestions about how long these meetings should take. For a 2-week sprint Ken suggests that Planning take 4 hours, the Retrospective takes 3 hours, and the Sprint Review takes 2 hours. This won’t fit into one day unless it’s a very long day, but Teams try it anyway.

This is a common anti-pattern. It looks good, but it won’t work, and a large part of the Team’s agility is lost. The main point of the Review is to get information that causes changes in the priorities for planning, right? So, when does the Product Owner do this re-prioritization?

Good Question!

I think that there needs to be time set aside for it as part of the process. I call this time the “Progress Assessment Discussion” and it usually involves the Product Owner working with a few Team Members and Stakeholders to discuss what just happened in the Review, and what that means with respect to the next Sprint’s Planning. The result of this discussion is a re-prioritized Backlog ready for planning. As I mentioned above, this discussion could be at lunch-time or in the evening, but it’s got to happen.

Anyway, if the appropriate progress assessment is done, the meetings need to be shorter than Ken suggests if it’s all going to fit into a single day. I think that there should be four meetings in this day between Sprints: the Review (2 hours), the Retrospective (2 hours), the Progress Assessment (1 hour), and Sprint Planning (2 hours).

This compressed timeline fits in one day only if the Team is doing frequent Intraspectives (small Retrospectives inside the Sprint) and ongoing Grooming in order to have the Backlog ready for Planning. Many Teams don’t do enough of these things, and you can see how it will hurt the Team’s Planning, and thus its success.

Just sayin’… Dan  😉

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