9 Tips for Better Sprint Execution
The goal of every sprint is to deliver something that is fully deployable, not a completed project, but rather some minimal viable product. How to achieve that goal consistently is the challenge every team faces.
Is it possible for sprint execution to become routine? Yes, with some practice and these tips to help your team ace sprint execution.
1 | Plan.
The sprint review is crucial to successful sprint execution. The team must not only understand the sprint deliverable but be on board with the work necessary to meet that deliverable. If you need help with this step see our blog post How to Execute a Sprint Planning Meeting That Gets Results.
2 | Start high and work down.
Always work the highest risk stories and tasks first. These are generally the stories that will take the longest to complete, are the most complex, or that have the greatest chance of introducing obstacles, any of which can threaten to delay your sprint deliverable.
3 | Tackle problems immediately.
Problems and challenges will occur. Team members must learn to raise issues as soon as they are identified then discuss solutions or work-arounds to resolve them as quickly as possible to avoid sprint delays.
Related Post: 8 Tips For A Better Daily Scrum
4 | Continually cascade the work.
Stories should continually finish within the sprint meaning there should be a continuous flow of work done, tested and accepted as the sprint progresses. The team cannot wait until the end of the sprint to test and accept all the work. A boulder rolling downhill picks up speed as it goes. The boulder will make it to the bottom quickly and intact if nothing gets in its way. But should the boulder hit an obstacle then there is little chance of it reaching the bottom, let alone in one piece. If you do not continually test and accept your work along the way, one obstacle can completely impede the entire project.
5 | Sprints are fixed length.
Only on rare occasions should the sprint deadline be changed. Both team members and those outside the team (stakeholders and management) must understand sprint structure and commitments. All must respect the inviolability of the sprint. Only the most superficial changes can be allowed “in-flight” during a sprint. The rest must wait for the next sprint where they are introduced as new stories.
6 | Strive for technical debt neutral development.
Technical debt is the calculation of future costs attributable to known design or architectural flaws in the product that need to be fixed. Include in story estimates enough time to develop code that is maintainable, extensible or reusable. Where possible include stories to specifically address technical debt.
7 | Use spike stories when necessary.
Spike stories are used when the team cannot estimate a story because research is needed before the estimate can be made. The spike story can be time-boxed (given a specific amount to time) or open-ended depending on the complexity of the research. The objective of the spike story is to produce something (decision, proof of concept, prototype) that helps the team better understand and estimate the original story.
Related Post: 5 Things To Consider When Developing a Sprint Backlog
8 | Have sprint-ready stretch stories.
Although the team commitment is always to deliver the sprint work on time, the team is also striving to increase sprint velocity. To do this, the backlog should contain spring-ready stretch stories to allow the team to stay productive after the sprint commitment is achieved but before the next sprint begins.
9 | Review.
The sprint retrospective is just as important as sprint planning. Understanding how your team works together is imperative to successful sprint execution. If you need help with this step see our blog post In Retro: 4 Quick Tips to Apply to Your Sprint Retrospective.
There are a lot of tasks in motion when executing a sprint but a team that not only commits to the process, but also improving that process, can make sprint execution routine.
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