Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sprint length

If you are the Scrum Master for a new team, one of the first things you have to figure out is the sprint length. As with many things, my advice would be: take it to the team!

Set up a meeting with the whole team to determine the sprint length. This doesn't have to be an hours long meeting, just a quick check up on what everybody thinks.

Remember though, that the Scrum Master is the one ultimately responsible for choosing the sprint length. Sometimes teams choose a sprint length that is too long. If you think this is the case then go for a shorter length.

If you are really clueless about the sprint length, try two weeks. That works for a lot of teams around the world.

At the end of the sprint use the retrospective to discuss how the chosen sprint length worked out. Inspect and, if necessary, adapt!


The sprint is a timebox. Once you start a sprint, do not change the sprint length. If you run out of work before the sprint ends, add more work. The Product Owner decides on the priority on items to work, the team decides how much extra work they can fit into the sprint.

timebox scrum sprintMake use of burndown charts and work with small user stories so that you may see early in the sprint that possibly not all of the planned work can be achieved. If it turns out you have planned for too much work in the sprint, use this as an opportunity to inspect and adapt. The team should decide what they think they can still finish in this sprint. The Product Owner decides what is most important. Use the Sprint Goal to guide these decisions.


If the length of a sprint is decided at the organisational level, I would try and find out what the reasons behind it are. Imposing the length of the sprint on the team hampers the team's ability to self-organize and I would view this as a possible impediment. There might be good reasons for it though, such as avoiding overlapping meetings with other teams, or synchronizing release schedules.

Steady rhythm

steady rhythm sprint length scrumDon't change your sprint length based on the amount of work. So, don't have one sprint be three weeks, the next one four weeks, the one after that two weeks, etc. The amount of work should be chosen based on the sprint length, not the other way around. Ideally, you want the sprint length to be the same for every sprint. This allows the team to settle into a steady rhythm.

Having the same length, sprint after sprint, makes things more predictable. Team members and stakeholders, will know when each Scrum meeting is without having to check their appointments. Also, it will be easier to determine velocity if the sprint length is the same every time which makes planning releases easier.

Our sprint length

Our very first sprint was three weeks long. That felt a little long to us, so we changed it to two weeks for the next sprint and it has been so ever since. We discussed changing it to one week sprints a few times, but so far, two weeks still works best for us.

How long are your sprints, and how does that work for you?

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