Skip to main content

It is not about Sprint Zero; Think Sprint-N

There is a good dialogue on the topic of Scrum's Sprint Zero going on at Scrumdevelopment@yahoogroups.com.  If you follow the group you will surely learn something about Agility.  It will just seep into your pores.  Go right ahead - click the link and join up... I'll wait here.

The "raging" debate in the Scrum world for years is - should a Scrum team have a Sprint Zero?  A sprint in which they get setup for doing real work.  A sprint for installing all that infrastructure (DB, Version Control System, App Server, build a few [sarcasm] frameworks). [Hint: when a developer says they just need to build a framework - it is geek-code for I don't have any idea how to use The Google to find a tool to do that job - so I will have to forge my own special handmade tool - check back with me after I reinvent the wheel.]

I think perhaps the wise and wonderful man behind the curtain - Ron Jeffries - captures the best thinking on the topic:

"I do, however, object to calling those activities Sprint Zero. Here is my reason:"

"It is a core principle of Scrum that every Sprint must produce an increment of potentially shippable software.

"Therefore, an interval of time which does not produce an increment of potentially shippable software is not a Sprint.

"Therefore such a time interval should not be called a Sprint. It doesn't do what a Sprint does."
   -- Ron Jeffries
So the debate - and I think it is much more a debate - than a productive dialogue, is over something at the very beginning of a long learning process. The transition from predictive to emergent behaviors of development.  Is the debate over - what to call an increment of time?  Or is it over our starting point: Zero vs One?  Or is it over the principle of - do we really have to deliver something this first iteration - what could we possibly do AND do all this setup work?  Do we have to do ALL this setup work?  Now we are going down the right path.

And the abstraction of that path is that we learn to count with the infinite goal in mind - not the beginning.  We learn to count:  Zero, One, Many.

If you have only ONE sprint called Zero - I'm fine with that - it is a failure if it delivers no potentially shippable software.  But hey, I'm OK with failure.  And if you fail once and learn something - like how to get back up, dust yourself off and start delivering working software in one sprint, well then HEY I'm good with whatever you call it.

You see, I'm focusing on the goal - getting to reliably delivering software in Sprint-N, each and every Sprint-N.  And if you need training wheels on your first bicycle - then I'm all for getting training wheels - it is a very reliable learning technique.  Just don't put them on your Harley.


See Also:
InfoQ:  What is Sprint Zero? Why was it Introduced?
An alternative view:  Why do you need Sprint 0
Scrum Alliance article:  What is Sprint Zero
Mountain Goat SW:  Sprint Zero: A Good Idea or Not?

1 comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Exercise:: Definition of Ready & Done

Assuming you are on a Scrum/Agile software development team, then one of the first 'working agreements' you have created with your team is a 'Definition of Done' - right?



Oh - you don't have a definition of what aspects a user story that is done will exhibit. Well then, you need to create a list of attributes of a done story. One way to do this would be to Google 'definition of done' ... here let me do that for you: http://tinyurl.com/3br9o6n. Then you could just use someone else's definition - there DONE!

But that would be cheating -- right? It is not the artifact - the list of done criteria, that is important for your team - it is the act of doing it for themselves, it is that shared understanding of having a debate over some of the gray areas that create a true working agreement. If some of the team believes that a story being done means that there can be no bugs found in the code - but some believe that there can be some minor issues - well, …

Elements of an Effective Scrum Task Board

What are the individual elements that make a Scrum task board effective for the team and the leadership of the team?  There are a few basic elements that are quite obvious when you have seen a few good Scrum boards... but there are some other elements that appear to elude even the most servant of leaders of Scrum teams.









In general I'm referring to a physical Scrum board.  Although software applications will replicated may of the elements of a good Scrum board there will be affordances that are not easily replicated.  And software applications offer features not easily implemented in the physical domain also.





Scrum Info Radiator Checklist (PDF) Basic Elements
Board Framework - columns and rows laid out in bold colors (blue tape works well)
Attributes:  space for the total number of stickies that will need to belong in each cell of the matrix;  lines that are not easy eroded, but are also easy to replace;  see Orientation.

Columns (or Rows) - labeled
    Stories
    To Do
    Work In P…

Webinar: Collaboration at Scale: Defining Done, Ready, and NO.

I was invited to participate in a Scrum Alliance Webinar.  Maybe you would like to listen to us in a discussion of techniques to collaborate at scale (remotely and with many people).  The topic is one that I've got some experience in discussions - yet I never seem to get to done...
Collaboration at Scale: Defining Done and Ready and NO for Distributed Teams
With Joel Bancroft-Connors, Agile Organizational Coach; David A. Koontz, Agile Transition Guide; and Luke Hohmann, CEO and Founder of Conteneo, Inc.


14 February 2018 11 a.m. ET (USA).




The Scrum Guide is pretty clear on the criticality of the definition of Done: "When a Product Backlog item or an Increment is described as "Done," everyone must understand what "Done" means. However, the Scrum Guide ALSO says that the definition of Done can "vary significantly per Scrum Team." This leads us to examine when and how the definition of Done should vary, how distributed teams should cr…

A T-Shaped 21st Century Knowledge Worker

Knowledge workers in the 21st Century must have many areas of deep knowledge, while also be capable of collaboration across multiple other domains with dissimilar T-shaped individuals.  This description of a person is a metaphor.  Compare it to the shape of the "I" in the classic saying there is no "I" in Team.


I first read about Scott Ambler's term "Generalizing Specialist" - but it's so hard to remember the proper order of the words... get it backwards and it has an inverted meaning... T-Shaped is easier to remember. 
A generalizing specialist is someone who:
Has one or more technical specialties (e.g. Java programming, Project Management, Database Administration, ...). Has at least a general knowledge of software development. Has at least a general knowledge of the business domain in which they work. Actively seeks to gain new skills in both their existing specialties as well as in other areas, including both technical and domain areas.  General…

A FAILURE to Communicate

I was working with a failing team some time ago.  I use "failing" to describe the outcome of the team - not the people on the team.  Are you OK with that description?



An issue arrose in the stand up - a team member that was to verify the quality of a procedure did so and reported that there were a few records that didn't match expectation in the data set.  Upon inquire the number of records not matching was over 2000.  Most people acknowledged immediately the exaggeration - I could tell by the laughter.  After about 10 minutes of discussing the details of the problem - it appeared the team had a handle on the specific situation.

I stopped the discussion and inquired if they could name the impediment.  One team member did a great job of describing the impediment as a _communication gap_.  Wonderful - I could work with that - the problem had a name and it didn't include anyones Proper Name.

"If the problem has a first name; we are going to have a problem."

I&#…