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Creating Increments in Sprints and releasing are different things!

January 13, 2022

There is often confusion in what happens in a Sprint with regards to the Increment and releasing. 

Short summary of this article: during a Sprint, one or more increments are produced. This happens when a Product Backlog Item meets the definition of "Done". At least once every Sprint, but it can happen more often. When a Product Backlog Item meets the definition of "Done" (and therefor becomes an increment), it can be released. Releasing can be done at any moment in time! 

Have you ever heard: "You're not releasing this Sprint: that's not Scrum"


"We should add some extra time to the Sprint so we can release"


"It's ok not to produce an increment this Sprint because we won't release anyway"

These are misconceptions that jeopardize the purpose of Scrum. Scrum requires "The Scrum Team to turn a selection of the work into an Increment of value during a Sprint"  - Scrum Guide 2020. 

Let's clarify these terms in relation to the Scrum framework and how they're used:

Sprint is the time-box

Sprints are the heartbeat of Scrum, where ideas are turned into value.

They are fixed length events of one month or less to create consistency. A new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint. - Scrum Guide 2020

The Sprint is the time-box. The container in which all Scrum events take place and where work gets done and value is created. 

Increment and it's commitment

An Increment is a concrete stepping stone toward the Product Goal. Each Increment is additive to all prior Increments and thoroughly verified, ensuring that all Increments work together. In order to provide value, the Increment must be usable. - Scrum Guide 2020

The best sentence that describes this in my opinion is: The moment a Product Backlog item meets the Definition of Done, an Increment is born.

This means there are no Increments that are not "Done". They are then called "Product Backlog Items". This transparency is important to the Scrum Team and it's stakeholders, because by this definition of "Done" you know if value is created or not. 


Releasing means putting the value created in the hands of those who can use it. There is only one sentence in the Scrum Guide about releasing (which is actually about NOT releasing...) 

The Definition of Done creates transparency by providing everyone a shared understanding of what work was completed as part of the Increment. If a Product Backlog item does not meet the Definition of Done, it cannot be released or even presented at the Sprint Review. Instead, it returns to the Product Backlog for future consideration. - Scrum Guide 2020

Releasing is not the same thing as creating a "Done" increment. It can be so that your definition of "Done" states that the Product Backlog Item should be released to meet the definition of "Done". But there are also cases where creating value and releasing that value is done in a different time-frame. Take for instance a Christmas look-and-feel for a webshop. This increment can be created in August and released in December. 

Sprint - Increment - Release
During the Sprint Product Backlog Item(s) turn into Increment(s). They meet the definition of "Done". An Increment can be released now, or later - at any given time. Releasing means putting value in the hands of customers. 



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