Most of the team on PTO

Last post 09:47 am December 4, 2013
by Florian Pachaly
7 replies
04:00 am November 22, 2013

Dear all,

Christmas is coming. There is a sprint review planned for 24 December and nobody will be in the ofice. Should we shorten the sprint? There will be almost nobody back from PTO until 6 January. Should we simply skip a sprint?
More general, how are you dealing with sprint reviews and plannings that are planned for holidays? What do you do with those meetings, while the Product Owner is on PTO?

Thanks for your help, Florian

04:44 am November 22, 2013

The important thing is to reach agreement with other Scrum Teams in the organization...certainly if you are collaborating towards the delivery of releases. You don't necessarily have to synchronise your sprints, but you certainly have to be aware of what each other will be doing.

You also need to bear in mind that many organizations impose a change freeze around Christmas because so many staff are on PTO. Sometimes it can be as long as a month. This can be expected to impact the potential release of any increments.

Often, the simplest solution is to agree a "firebreak" with the PO, other Scrum Teams, and the organization-at-large. This is a non-sprinting period of agreed length. Unfortunately it's also an anti-pattern, because it's an opportunity for available team members to catch up on the repayment of technical debt...and some may be tempted to incur debt which can then be deferred onto it. It's the same issue you get with a hardening sprint. You have to weigh these risks against the benefit of its simplicity.

08:03 am November 22, 2013

Thank you for the detailed reply. We have shortened the pre-christmas sprint by a day, skip a sprint and go on after everybody is back from PTO returning to the "normal" sprint schedule.

02:11 pm November 29, 2013

You may also want to consider maintaining your sprint rhythm, adjusting the review meeting time. Your sprint plan for the holidays would be at a reduced capacity. As noted, previously, those who are at work may be tempted to engage in behaviors which are less disciplined as a result of the hiatus.

11:14 am November 30, 2013

I would like to add our solution for this. Our sprint review, retro and planning would also be during winter holiday when nearly nobody is at the office, so we just lengthen the sprint by one week. As we usually have 3 week sprints, this is still conform with Scrum. There is no rule that you may never change the length of a sprint, it is just forbidden to change it within the sprint.

In addition, this extra week compensates for the loss in productivity due to the holiday. This makes it easier for us to forecast the sprint velocity than if we shorten the sprint.

I think having a sprint-free time during holiday is clearly against the framework. It is a question in the PSM I certification: When does sprint 2 begin? The right answer is directly after sprint 1. I would apply this for n and n-1 as well. The reason for this rule is probably that you would have a measurable loss in productivity during the sprint-free time at least for the few people who are at the office.

09:56 am December 2, 2013

Thank you for this input.

We have decided to skip one sprint, because it is only one day less than the normal sprint length, that almost nobody is in the office. The regular sprint review would have been on the first day of holday, so we shortened the las sprint.

do you think this break of rhythm is against the scrum rules. The rhythm will be broken anyway due to the holidays...

Regards, Florian

12:46 pm December 2, 2013

Hi Florian,
why don't you have the sprint review on the first day after holiday? If everybody is on holiday at the same time, I would treat the holiday as non-working-days, same as a sunday, so the sprint is just expanded by the time lost through holidays. But if just _almost_ nobody is there and there is a sprint-free time, you loose productivity.
Best, Ludwig

09:47 am December 4, 2013

We have decided to not skip a sprint! Although most of the team is not in the office we will have a sprint during holidays. We move sprint review and retrospective a day earlier and go on with a reduced sprint planning on the same day. After that holiday starts and the sprint as well. after the holidays the first day the team is back completely the sprint review is taking place. This is also the regular sprint review day.

Of course we have to mind the different amount of work for this sprint, but we will keep the rhythm as much as possible and we will not have the productivity loss.

Again, thanks a lot for the input.

Regards, Florian