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What Is A Sprint In Scrum?

March 29, 2022

Teams new to Scrum face lots of decisions, with one of those critical decisions being how long a sprint length should be. Every team's needs are different, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach to planning the length and organization of your sprint.

In this article, we take a look at key Scrum terminology, how your teams can use sprints to work more efficiently, and finally, we share tips for how to structure your sprints in a way that helps your teams become more agile.

What Is A Sprint in Scrum?

Before we get into answering this question, let’s take a look at what Scrum means. Scrum is an Agile framework that gives teams guidelines on how to complete their work. It contains sets of roles, ceremonies, and considerations for how your work is completed.

So, what is a Scrum sprint? A sprint is a concept in Scrum that represents a time box ( i.e., a short amount of time) that the team has committed to complete the work. And how long is a sprint? Sprints in Scrum can be as long as you want; however, it's most common for sprint length to be between 1 and 4 weeks. Teams running Scrum sprints need to decide what makes sense for them.

We often see that team's first instincts lean toward the extreme: Either 1-week sprints or 4-week sprints. While there are arguments for the varying lengths of sprints in Scrum, here are some standard variables that you and your team should consider.

Sprint Planning for Planned vs. Unplanned Work

Before sprint planning begins, it's essential to define what you want to accomplish during that sprint is essential. Instead of using overarching strategic objectives to guide your team, sprint goals should be smaller, more attainable chunks of work that can be completed in a shorter timeframe. 

If you are an Agile Scrum team with high variability in your work, longer sprints may give you the necessary buffer to complete the job. If you've got a 1-week sprint (with 1 of your 5 days already dedicated to ceremonies), even one or two random pieces of work can prevent your team from completing the work in the committed scope.

On the other hand, if the team has unplanned work with a lower level of urgency, Scrum sprint lengths that are shorter allow you to include the work in your Scrum sprint planning within a shorter period.

As far as how to best manage work, Jira is a great tool to help teams achieve this. Here's a guide on starting, managing, and completing a sprint using Jira. 

Planning and Executing Your Scrum Sprint 

How much time per week should sprint planning to be spent in Scrum, retrospectives, backlog grooming, and demos? Shorter sprints mean more time is spent in these meetings. This becomes even more essential if you do not have dedicated roles (Scrum master, product owner).

What we see in 1-week sprints is that teams can lose a full day (twenty percent of the sprint!) of each sprint to demos, retros, and planning. So the shorter your Agile sprints are in Scrum, the more often you're having these ceremonies.

Is your work small enough to be completed in the sprint length? For example, if you are often not completing work in 1 sprint, a longer sprint in Scrum may make sense (or you may just need to work on improving properly sizing your tasks).

How often do I want to see and evaluate completed work? Is it acceptable to go 4 weeks without demonstrating the work that's being done? Do you need to know every week? Sprint length determines how often you see sprint demos and complete sprint retrospectives.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to optimal Scrum sprint length. Iteration is the key to Scrum, so don't worry if your first choice doesn't work for your team. That's what your retrospectives are for, after all!

How to Get Started With Agile Transformation

While the word Scrum originated from rugby, a Scrum sprint in the Agile world is similar, but still quite different. A Scrum in rugby refers to the way players come together in a tight formation to restart a play, but for Agile teams, Scrum involves breaking down a project into sprints that represent a period of time in which specific tasks need to be completed. 

Sprint planning is an essential process for any organization looking to become more agile, as it is a great way for teams to quickly build–and iterate–new products.

If your organization is going through an Agile transformation, you’ve come to the right place. Praecipio has helped hundreds of organizations drive successful business outcomes through our Agile-at-Scale implementations. As an Atlassian Specialized Partner in Agile at Scale, we know what it takes to achieve what so many organizations fail to do: connect their people and process to their strategy

If you are looking to implement Scrum sprint planning or need guidance on how to transition your organization to become Agile, contact us

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