In their 1986 Harvard Business Review article, "New New Product Development Game" Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka coined the term "Scrum." They defined it as a novel method where a cross-functional team carries out the entire process over several overlapping phases. The team passes the ball back and forth and tries to go the distance as a unit.
According to the 15th State of Agile Report, Scrum is the most popular Agile approach. More than half of the research participants from the software development community identified it as the methodology they follow most closely.
Scrum sprints are the core of the Scrum approach. A Scrum sprint is a period during which a Scrum team must finish a specific amount of work. Getting sprints right can help your agile team ship better products with fewer headaches.
Techstack makes extensive use of the Agile approach. We are skilled at streamlining procedures and delivering reliable results. In this post, I will discuss the Scrum description, what a Scrum sprint and sprint goal are, why they are essential, how to improve them, and name some of the best practices to optimize sprints.
What is a Scrum Sprint?
In an ongoing development cycle, Scrum sprints are predefined periods during which a particular set of features or capabilities are focused on. Typically, a sprint lasts two weeks. During that time, the Scrum team aims to deliver a particular product increment. In Scrum, a product increment is anything new that was just finished in the most recent sprint on top of what has been built earlier, and has been integrated, tested and prepared for delivery or deployment.
The use of sprints helps to divide the development process into manageable pieces. During the sprint planning, the team determines what to work on next.
The number of sprints required to build a product is not predetermined. It depends on the overall scope of work. If the development process takes 12 weeks, for instance, most likely, it will require four to six sprints. Typically, a sprint lasts two weeks, although some teams find it easier to plan the scope of the sprint for one week or to deliver an increment of sufficient value in a month.
Scrum Sprint Stages
There are several stages of sprint management, including initiation, planning and estimation, implementation, reviewing, and releasing. The phases of a typical Scrum sprint will be covered in this section.
In a Scrum framework, the initiation phase is when a product vision is developed. This includes crucial identification details like specifying who the stakeholders are and designating yourself or another team member as the Scrum Master, who is in charge of carrying out the strategy, among others. In order to assemble a team, team members are assigned to the software development process during this time.
Planning and Estimation
During this phase, the team makes plans for a sprint during short sprint planning meetings that can improve team collaboration. This time is also used to estimate the goals for the sprint, as well as the products the team will deliver and when. For the length of the sprint, everyone on the team has clear expectations thanks to this.
The development team devotes the majority of its effort to this stage. The team creates a product increment during this process. The product owner doesn’t have to participate in this stage. However, they should be available during the sprint to answer any questions the Scrum team may have.
During this phase, a review meeting with the team is held to go through the sprint at the end of the development to collect feedback. Based on the outcomes of the finished sprint, this meeting offers a chance to review what went well and where there is room for growth. It enables the team to modify processes and practices so that they can succeed while moving on to the subsequent planning and estimation phase.
The release phase, which comes after all other phases, is where the team gives any final deliverables to stakeholders, such as launching a product or giving access to newly produced technology. Holding a retrospective meeting with the team after the product is released helps to evaluate the results of each individual sprint and to go over the team’s overall performance during the product's development.
Scrum ceremonies, commonly referred to as Scrum events or Agile ceremonies, are a crucial part of the Scrum process. These are the four Scrum ceremonies: sprint planning, daily stand-up, sprint review, and sprint retrospective process.
The Scrum team holds a sprint planning meeting during this phase. Here, the development team and the product owner meet to discuss which backlog items will be prioritized. The development team will discuss bandwidth and capacity specifics. A sprint goal is set during the planning phase. The general rule is to set 1 hour per week for the sprint planning session. If the sprint length is two weeks, spend 2 hours respectively.
Stand-up meetings, often known as daily Scrums, help the sprint run smoothly. The daily Scrum is typically limited to 15 minutes by Scrum Masters. These stand-up meetings are unofficial get-togethers intended to help spot any barriers and provide team members a chance to discuss their present duties, objectives, and challenges.
Every sprint ends with a sprint review meeting. The Scrum team, product owner, Scrum master, and stakeholders assess how well the product increment performed. The product owner verifies whether the features comply with the sprint's criteria and whether the team has achieved the sprint goal.
The sprint retrospective, or sprint retro, is when the Scrum team, and Scrum master review the sprint process, identify its successes, and suggest improvements. Scrum Masters are in charge of carrying out Scrum procedures at Techstack. They organize the Sprint Retro, remove barriers, and ensure the squad is always trying to get better.
How to Set and Use a Sprint Goal
A Sprint Goal captures the essence of your product development in a concise statement, providing purpose, direction and focus to guide all Scrum events. It's an essential tool for helping teams prioritize tasks, measure progress and make key decisions throughout each sprint.
By providing focus and direction, the statement from the Product Owner allows teams to prioritize tasks accordingly while being able to track their performance during events such as Planning Sprints or Daily Standups, Reviews and Retrospectives.
In simple words, the product backlog is like a map of destinations. Each sprint offers the chance to pick one unique destination and create an itinerary with specific items from that location, allowing you to pursue your goal in steps outlined by user stories and acceptance criteria.
Usually, the Sprint Goal-setting process looks like this:
- Product Owner prepares a Sprint Goal
- Product Owner shares this goal with the team before Sprint Planning
- Sprint Goal is amended and tweaked in Sprint Planning
- Team checks if the Sprint Goal is reasonable at the end of Sprint Planning
- Team puts the Sprint Goal visible during the sprint.
Crafting a Sprint Goal doesn’t have to be difficult – you can easily utilize one of several templates and frameworks available. Get started quickly by leveraging existing frameworks.
Our focus is on <Outcome>
We believe it delivers <Impact> to <Customer>
This will be confirmed when <Event happens>
Let’s see an example:
Our focus is on making the user aware of the processing progress. We believe it delivers confidence in the product to our organization. This will be confirmed when we see the user downloading the processing results.
Roman Pichler is a renowned product management expert whose Sprint Goal template has become an authoritative reference on the internet. The Scrum.org Sprint Goal example might look as follows using Roman’s template:
- Goal: Make the user aware of the processing progress. (Make the processing progress visible.)
- Method: Display an interactive progress bar while heavy processing happens.
- Metrics: Users download the processing results more and go to next steps/use other app features more often.
Guy Maslen, a Scrum Master from New Zealand, provides an effective model to properly define sprint goals.
- Feature: The what from a stakeholder’s perspective.
- Advantage: Highlights the how – what makes this feature special.
- Benefit: Covers the why by defining the business outcome.
Let’s see it in practice:
Making users see the progress of the processing by displaying a progress bar entices more of them to go to the next step and use the app more extensively, driving growth and revenue.
Highly Effective Sprint Goals Characteristics
Make sure your Sprint Goal will be the most effective possible by confirming it meets these six important criteria.
- The Sprint Goal has a purpose.
By clearly defining the purpose of a Sprint Goal, teams can create strategies and develop solutions with clarity during planning or when faced with issues mid-sprint. With this knowledge at hand, comprehension is improved and your objectives become more attainable.
- The Sprint Goal considers the user or business.
Make sure your Sprint Goal is geared towards creating customer value or positively impacting the business. Ask yourself what users will be able to do that they couldn't before and which area of the company this goal could assist—don't settle for vague statements like “it helps marketing”, strive for clarity by asking stakeholders further questions if needed. Ambiguity can lead to different objectives being pursued during a sprint, so it's important that an effective one with precise meaning is established beforehand.
- The Sprint Goal specifies an outcome.
Achieving success with a Sprint Goal hinges on understanding the difference between an outcome and output. Output describes action taken, like A/B testing different signup CTA buttons – while outcomes are defined by measurable results, such as gaining 1,000 new customers through that same landing page. The only way to know if your team fulfilled their goal is to make sure it's binary; meaning they either achieved what was expected or did not.
- The Sprint Goal is not afraid of failure.
Experienced teams can maximize progress and gain valuable learning opportunities by setting ambitious Sprint Goals. While failure is inevitable, it's not the end of the story; planning in advance to consider what you're trying to learn helps keep a positive outlook on any missteps. Upon reflection during Reviews and Retrospectives, these experiences offer insight for continuous improvement that builds upon an agile principle as part of Scrum’s framework.
- The Sprint Goal sides with the team.
It is critical that teams have ownership over their work. This includes consenting and contributing during Sprint Planning in a way that all members are represented equally—meaning no dictation or external influence from product owners under stakeholder pressure should be allowed on the final wording for each Sprint Goal. Doing so will ensure maximum productivity within the team by allowing them to take charge of how they plan out their tasks and complete goals effectively together as one unit.
- The Sprint Goal stays specific.
While everyone tends to have a long list of goals for every sprint, it is important that product owners focus on creating clearly defined and targeted ones. Achieving this will ensure the successful completion of tasks while preventing any bloated outcomes or disaster scenarios from occurring.
In short, Agile teams must be proactive in utilizing their Sprint Goals to maximize efficiency and productivity. To do so, they should:
- Use it as a guide for refining product backlog items before sprint planning;
- Work together towards the goal during daily scrums;
- Seek feedback from stakeholders throughout the process;
- Adapt when necessary due to impediments encountered along the way;
- Collect data for success review purposes at each stage of development,
- Measure impact on future Sprints based on retrospective analysis.
How to Improve Scrum Sprints? Other Ways to Thrive
Let’s consider some pieces of advice to improve Scrum sprints:
- Maintaining a neat backlog. Ensure your backlog is organized and your priorities and dependencies are in the correct order. If not handled properly, this can be a significant issue that could cause the process to fail.
- Estimating the development speed realistically. Make sure you take team meetings and vacation time into account.
- Maximizing the use of planning meetings. Do flesh out specifics of the work that has to be done during the sprint planning meeting. Encourage your team to create task sketches for every story, issue, and task that enters the sprint.
- Not trying to cover everything at once. Leave some tasks for other teams like design and legal approval when you won't be able to complete the dependencies.
- Recording the decisions and plans. Make sure someone records the details of a decision or plan in your management or collaboration software. Thus, everyone can understand the choice and the reasoning later on.
- Automating your sprints. There are the top three Jira automation guidelines for sprints:
1) sending a Slack message every week listing all issues that are active in the sprint,
2) assigning the remaining issues to the following sprint,
3) moving the problem to the next active sprint when an issue is marked as "In Progress" and the sprint is not yet complete.
Best Practices for Improving Sprints
The success of your sprints determines whether or not your organization can provide high-quality software quickly and efficiently. Additionally, it gives the teams more flexibility and the opportunity to iterate on a successful technology or swiftly replace something that is not working. Below are some best practices to improve Scrum sprints.
Align the Work with Your Business Priorities
A development team focuses on small goals throughout a sprint. In these conditions, it's easy to overlook the greater company goals. Verify that the sprint objectives line up with the existing business objectives.
Make the Workload Balanced from the Beginning
Ensure that team members are given comparable workloads to prevent burnout. It's crucial to comprehend how each engineer in the team operates. Some prefer to choose their own assignments from those that are left unassigned, some pick up incomplete tasks as they complete others. And some want to be given specific duties because they have particular expertise.
Consider the Time Interruptions
While business-critical sprints are thought to come first, Slack interruptions and meetings can quickly take up an engineer's entire day. Ensure you assess each team member's availability for deep work to prevent burnout.
Account for Any Unplanned Work
The bugs and fire drills that are expected to occur once the sprint begins aren't always considered in the initial preparation. Pay close attention to any additions made mid-sprint and make the necessary adjustments. There may be team members with the sprint queue finished who are able to take on this work. However, it's essential to be aware of each team member's workload.
Perform Daily Stand-Ups and Raise Flags ASAP
It will help to prevent a minor problem from becoming a significant bottleneck. During your Pull request (PR) cycle time, you accumulate a wealth of information about where bottlenecks frequently occur. Utilizing available data during sprints can also be very helpful in identifying future bottlenecks. It will enable you to proactively avoid conflict by assigning reviews or allocating more time for approvals.
Defend Against Burnout
Identifying burnout without concrete data can be very challenging. Don't wait for individuals to start complaining about being overworked. Burnout prevention needs to be a top priority. Make sure no one is overly fatigued before sprints, and ensure overtime doesn't become a regular thing during the sprints.
Reprioritize Using Sprint Progress Estimates
Examine your team's progress daily to see whether it is on or off-schedule. A successful sprint end can be predicted if you are scheduled to complete most of the task. In that case, you can always suggest that your team reevaluate its priorities. Remain adaptable and keep a clear vision of what is occurring during the sprint.
Perform a Detailed Sprint Retrospective
You should consider how things are going and how people are feeling. Look at factors like time allocation, PR throughput, and any items added mid-sprint. Making notes during the sprint will help you keep track of the problems and discuss how to fix or avoid them in the following sprint.
Importance of Scrum Sprints
Scrum sprints are iterations filled with events and ceremonies that enhance the software development process when they are effectively managed and carried out. Here are a few top advantages of well-run sprints provide for Agile Scrum teams.
A Rise in Productivity
The Scrum method boosts team productivity and allows for ongoing development. The team focuses on high-value, high-priority tasks.
Transparency is a fundamental process of Scrum. The Scrum team works together and exchanges ideas that could influence the product development outcome at every level of the sprint process. While bearing in mind the final aims and objectives, team members are free to voice their reservations. This keeps everyone on the same page and lowers the likelihood of failure.
Increased Clarity and Focus
Sprints enable breaking product development goals into smaller ones. The team concentrates on achieving the current sprint objectives. That implies that they don’t take on too many tasks at once, spreading their efforts thin.
The Agile Scrum team can adapt and react to shifting priorities and partner input by working in sprints. Agile software development management calls for a certain amount of adaptability. Sprints ensure teams are flexible enough to respond to change.
Thrive in Evolving Tech World with Scrum
Scrum brings value to product development. It splits the process into manageable chunks, helping teams provide high-quality work more quickly. Moreover, Scrum sprints and goal setting boost flexibility, allowing teams to accommodate changes.
Harness the full potential of Agile methodology with our help. Techstack specialists organize the development processes efficiently and provide predictable outcomes on time and within budget.
Consult with Techstack experts today to learn more about Scrum sprint best practices.