Why I Don't Like The Sprint

Mar. 1, 2021

Wait a second: How can a Scrum Master not like sprinting? Well, I like the concept, but not the word: In Scrum, a sprint is an event and container for all other scrum events such as the sprint planning, daily scrums, the sprint review and the sprint retrospective. Depending on the stage of the project and risks involved, a sprint could last up to one month. So, what is wrong with that?

Per Scrum Guide definition, there is no gap between sprints. And here something inside me yells: Sprinting without breaks? Are you crazy? See, I grew up as an avid sportsman: When I was young, I used to compete in swimming championships, finished many triathlons and marathons. To me, a sprint is something else: After an exhaustive 100 metre freestyle sprint you need much time to recover. Even worse after running 400 metres.

For me, the definition of sprinting is to give all you have in a certain amount of time. Everything. Till is nothing left. In practice, you sprint to get better. You try to keep your pace (say 10x50 metres, starting every minute with 20 second breaks in between), in such series your muscles have to increasingly work harder. There is an adaptation effect. But you can also overdo it and strain your muscles.

Now back to our Scrum sprints: The goal is to get more done in less time, to speed up the frequency of releases, to ultimately create more value for customers and the company. But I know many people who do not want to sprint all the time.

Nobody wants to burn out and thus it might be difficult to convince your team to adopt Scrum sprints. So, what to do? How about translating a “sprint” into a different term (but keep the word sprint, for Scrum’s sake)? Maybe a sprint could be a “cycle” or a “series”? It really depends on the business you are working with. Let the team come up with another picture (but keep on using the word sprint as it will get confusing real quick). A team with young hotshots might love to sprint all the time. But even here it is important to point out that even when working in an agile way, we need to keep pace and need to keep our momentum for a long ride.