Can Sprint Timebox Be Compromised?

Background

community

Every Tuesday, me and other Scrum Masters and Product Owners in the organization I work for are having a Community Of Practice (COP) .

Basically it is a one hour open session for sharing anything related with Agile. Be it questions, success stories, new books, etc.

In one of the COP, there was an interesting sharing from one of the Scrum Master.

He shared that his team is planning to extend the next sprint timebox to three weeks (usually they do two weeks sprint). He asked us, “What do you think about it?”

Of course there were pros and contras from the COP.
After some discussions, he finally decided to bring the concerns to his team.

The next week, he updated us with his decision.
In this article I want to share about how he came to the decision and what decision that he made.

Always start with ‘WHY?’

timebox

Few days after the COP (when he raised the question), we had two agile coaches (Marc Florit and Richard Telleria) came for a discovery week.

We used that opportunity to ask their opinion about that issue.

One interesting thing was their first response. Instead of answering the question, Marc replied with a simple question.

He asked the Scrum Master, ‘Why do you want to do that (changing the timebox)?’

Then he answered with his reasons.

The next response coming from Marc was “Well, if you have a good reason and you and your team sure that changing the timebox is the right thing to do, go ahead”
And he added “The basic answer in every decision in a Scrum Team is always ‘IT DEPENDS’. You and your team must decide what’s best for the team”

The Scrum Master then came home with that answer in his head. Then he started to combine that answer with the list of suggestions he got from the last COP.

Here are the suggestions he got from the last COP:

Tracking Velocity

One of the concern raised by one of the COP team member was “How will you measure / track the velocity of the team if you change the timebox?”

4 <> 2 + 2

The four weeks velocity is not two weeks velocity times two. Could be, but not a guarantee.

Will be easier to have the same timebox to track the velocity of your team.

Consistency Reduces Complexity

When to do what?

That’s basically related to the schedule on doing the sprint events. When the timebox is not consistent, there might be confusion among the team about when to do the other sprint events.

Like “Is this Friday is our time to do Sprint Review? Or is it the next Friday?”

Or “OMG, we only have 3 more days before the sprint ends” while in fact in this sprint they will still have another week in the timebox.

Let’s just say, having a consistent timebox will help the team to set the rhythm of their work.

Time And Energy Waste

For this one, I have an analogy 🙂 *well this is the title of my blog, right…annalogy 😀

Every end of March, in the organization I work for, is a very special month. We will have Bonus added to our salary.

201407_MIL_3

I used to manage my monthly expense in the same way, using the same template.
I usually do the fund allocation few days before the salary payment day. So when the salary is paid, I will just use that template to spread the income to the “planned bucket”.

Fund allocation plan I did every month is a no brainer. I usually do that in a very short time since the allocation and the salary received basically always the same and only has minor changes on the expense side.

But when March comes, I will take longer time to do the fund allocation planning. I need to make sure the Bonus I receive is allocated correctly, what are the debt I can close using that Bonus, how much portion of money I should allocate for saving, how much portion of money I should allocate for religious aspect, etc.

timewaste

Similar with this, when the timebox is not consistent, the team will take longer time to do the Sprint Planning.
The team that are used to measure the sprint backlog that they can take with a two weeks timebox, now have to plan differently.

Even if they finally can choose the backlog for the sprint, most probably the backlog amount they choose might not be fit successfully to the new timebox sprint.

It takes longer time for me to plan the fund allocation in March.
It takes longer time for the team to do the Sprint Planning for that Sprint.
And that’s definitely a waste.
Waste of Time and Energy.

Sidenote… I LOVE BONUS MONTH, though hahahaha

Adjustments Are Never Free

Human brain is used to repetition.
When the timebox is not consistent, the team will need to adjust on the new timebox.

Adjustments are never free.

It will cost your team some time to adjust and working on the sprint.

The Scrum Master (the one that was asking the question) even told us this “I’m not sure whether to keep the next sprint after that with the new timebox or back to the usual one”

There…you see…thinking of that already cost him some thought … Nothing is free

Will be better if he use his energy to think about other things if the timebox is consistent.

Inspection and Adaptation Cycle

In our case, the Scrum Master was planning to have to have the timebox longer than usual.

This way, the time to have Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective will be longer than usual. Meaning the feedback which they usually have every two weeks now have to wait for the new timebox end.

One of the suggestion given by one of the member of the COP was to keep the timebox as usual, even if the backlogs are not completed yet when the timebox completed, it’s okay, use the Review and Retro to discuss that and Plan for the next Sprint.

What’s The Decision?

A week after the last COP, we had another COP.
This time, the agile coaches were also present.

I asked the Scrum Master about his final decision.

He told us that the decision was made by the whole team.
They agreed to keep the two weeks timebox.
The reason was: after they discuss, they prefer to avoid complexity and waste. Also they don’t have a valid and super important reason to change the timebox in the next sprint, which mean they don’t have a valid answer for the “WHY” question.

Conclusion

There’s no single valid answer for this.
The team need to learn to understand WHY they are deciding things.
The decision from one team might not work for others.
If the team have make the decision and valid reason is there, then go for it!
Try it!
Only by trying you will see the result.

If you ask my opinion about this, I have to say that I’m not a fan of inconsistency timebox for the reasons I already explained above.
The risk by having that is more than the benefit.

But again… It’s your team decision 🙂
Decide what’s best.

Share your thought with me. I would love to see different perspective regarding this issue.

Cheers 🙂

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