Category Archives: teams

Scrum Sprints: How Long Should They Be?

How long should our sprints be? This is a question I am frequently asked by new scrum masters and scrum teams. Here is how it showed up in my in-box recently.

Question

After we participated in Agile Learning Labs’ Certified Scrum Master (CSM) workshop, my colleagues and I have begun practicing scrum very seriously. We chose one week as our sprint length. Some developers feel one-week sprints are too short, since we have a very strong definition of done. Delivering visible work in one week, along with all of the time in scrum meetings, is too stressful. One team member suggested increasing our sprint length to two-weeks. What are your thoughts?

Answer

Thanks for the question! The short answer is keep your sprints short; find and fix the sources of the stress you are feeling. All too frequently, when scrum uncovers a problem, we seek to change the way we are doing scrum in order to cover the problem back up. Have a look at this post about story point accounting for another example of this tendency. A better response is to address the underlying root-causes of the problem.

For your team, it is unlikely the underlying problem is not enough time in a one-week sprint to get user stories done. More likely, the team is dealing with one or more of the following problems:
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Dixit Sprint Retrospective Game

Dixit Game BoxI was inspired to create a retrospective game for agile teams, based on the game Dixit. Dixit is a game that makes use of picture cards. Each of these cards has an unusual drawing on it. The Agile Learning Labs team used it recently in one of our sprint retrospectives and it worked well. Give it a try with your team and leave a comment to let me know how it works for you.

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Hear Chris Sims on the Agile Weekly Podcast

In Integrum, Chris talks to Roy van de Water and Drew LeSeur of Integrum about running Agile Learning Labs as a transparent company with a radical compensation plan, writing The Elements of Scrum using scrum, and how our new book, Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction is an iteration of our first one.

Roy and Drew ask some excellent and hard questions, so tune in and give a listen!

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How to play the Team Estimation Game


Since this article was first published, The Team Estimation Game has evolved into something even better: Easy Estimation With Story Points. If you are looking for a fast and effective way to estimate, we recommend going straight to that article. If want to know where Easy Estimation With Story Points came from, keep reading.


The Team Estimation Game plays like a game, but it accomplishes valuable work: assigning story point estimates to user stories.

Teams using this technique are typically able to estimate 20 to 60 stories in an hour. The game was invented by our friend and colleague, Steve Bockman. Here is how one team plays the game:
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The best example of teamwork ever recorded?

Seriously, this video (via David Chilcott, via Mitchell Levy) makes me think: I want to do this with people some day. It may be in software, or it may be in publishing, it may be in basket weaving (it certainly won’t be in guitar playing or singing), but I want to be one of these guys!

The most common thread in the video’s comments on YouTube seems to be about the bearded guy on the left. He seems to answer the question of whatever-happened-to-The-Captain, which still leaves unanswered the question of whatever-happened-to-and-Tennille.

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Want a smart team? Make sure it gets the recommended daily allowance of estrogen

A team without a woman is like a bicycle with… some fish? So it would seem, according to Grace Nasri, who writes in the HuffPo about the gender gap in tech from an interesting perspective. She got my attention with a 2011 HBR story profiling research by Anita Wooley and Thomas Malone showing that the one significant factor that demonstrably upped the measurable collective intelligence of a team was the presence of females on it.
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Hello Chase, Goodbye David: A change at Agile Learning Labs

Our friend and colleague David Parker is leaving Agile Learning Labs’ staff. He has received a much better offer–and one we can’t possibly counter–that of stay at home dad to Chase Kamran Parker-Katiraee, who assumed his post of infant-in-chief earlier this week.

We predict a fair bit of wrangling over just who is the customer and who the product owner on this particular project, but anticipate that development will flourish nonetheless. If we’re lucky, David and his wife Layla will supply us with lots and lots of adorable sprint demos along the way. Our compliments to the team!

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How Can Our Scrum Team Improve Product Quality?

Question

Quality dial turned all the way upThank you for the certified scrum master training last week in Beijing. Your training is very impressive, and I appreciate it a lot. I asked you a lot of questions; may I ask one more? In our company, the automation for regression tests hasn’t been set up, yet. Without automation of the regressions tests, unit test, and pair-programming, how can our scrum team improve the quality of the product?

 

Answer

First, let me encourage you to keep up the work to automate your regression tests. Few things have as big a return on investment. Test automation enables the team to move much faster and make improvements fearlessly. The other practices you mention: unit testing and pair programming, are also great practices, and I encourage your team to try them too.

Having said that, your question was what else could your team do. Additional practices I would recommend your team consider are: code reviews, frequent testing by real users, testing bashes, and whole-team ownership of quality and testing.

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