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What is a Sprint in Scrum?

Learn About the Scrum Sprint Event

As described in the Scrum Guide, Sprints are the heartbeat of Scrum, where ideas are turned into value. The Sprint is the Scrum event that encompasses all of the other Scrum events.

They are fixed length periods of work that last one month or less to create consistency and ensure short iterations for feedback in order to inspect and adapt both how work is done and what is being worked on. If cycles are longer, then the spirit of frequent feedback cycles can be lost. Longer Sprint may also get too complex and may increase risk. A new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint.

All the work necessary to achieve the Product Goal, including Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective, happen within Sprints.

During the Sprint:

  • No changes are made that would endanger the Sprint Goal
  • Quality does not decrease
  • The Product Backlog is refined as needed
  • Scope may be clarified and renegotiated with the Product Owner as more is learned

Sprints enable predictability by ensuring that the Scrum Team inspects and adapts toward the Product Goal and Sprint Goal each Sprint:

  • Product Goal- The Product Goal describes a future state of the product which can serve as a target for the Scrum Team to plan against. The Product Goal is in the Product Backlog. The rest of the Product Backlog emerges to define “what” will fulfill the Product Goal. The Product Goal is the long-term objective for the Scrum Team. They must fulfill (or abandon) one objective before taking on the next.
  • Sprint Goal - The Sprint Goal is the single objective for the Sprint. Although the Sprint Goal is a commitment by the Developers, it provides flexibility in terms of the exact work needed to achieve it. The Sprint Goal also creates coherence and focus, encouraging the Scrum Team to work together rather than on separate initiatives.

You and your Scrum Team can choose the Sprint length that works for your team, as long as you keep it one month in length or less. Shorter Sprints generate more learning cycles and limit risk to a smaller time frame. Each Sprint may be considered a short stretch of work.

Empiricism is the most important practice for you and your Scrum Team to embrace during the Sprint. There is a lot unknown in complex environments. By embracing empiricism your team will learn by doing and will continue to improve as you navigate complex work. Forward looking decisions can only be made by the Scrum Team based on what has already happened. Various practices exist to forecast progress, like burn-downs, burn-ups, or cumulative flows. While proven useful, these do not replace the importance of empiricism.