Agile Software Development

Four Reasons to Have a Consistent Sprint Length

The ability to adhere to routine is often touted as a major virtue when pursuing goals. In agile, it is important never to settle for routine and the status quo, but that being said—people do value consistency in their sprint lengths. And there is good reason for it. In a post for Mountain Goat Software, Mike Cohn provides four reasons why you should want to have consistent sprint lengths:

  • Teams benefit from a predictable rhythm.
  • Sprint planning becomes easier.
  • Tracking velocity is easier.
  • It wastes less time.

Acceptable Routine

When sprints always have the same length, nobody has to be reminded what day things start or end on. They also have an easier time recalling when things happened in the past. The rhythm is predictable, and people are good at working with predictability. Sprint planning is a good illustration of this. A team that is experienced with working with sprints of a specific length will develop an inherent instinct for how much work they can fit in the next sprint.

Cohn continues to say this about how tracking velocity becomes easier:

When sprints are the same length, it is easier to track velocity. When a team varies its sprint length, they either have to note each sprint’s length (to explain why longer sprints had higher velocities) or normalize into something like velocity per week or velocity per day.

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that a four-week sprint will complete exactly twice as much as a two-week sprint. Normalizing velocity to be velocity per week works somewhat but is needless extra work when sprints are kept the same length.

Lastly, keeping sprints a consistent length saves time because nobody has to have a prolonged discussion about how long to make the sprint. Cohn says that Richard Feynman would have approved of this, because Feynman apparently decided to start eating chocolate ice cream for dessert every night so that he would no longer have to debate what to eat each night. Okie dokie then.

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