The sprint 0 trap in scrum

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Sprint 0 is a strange notion that persists in many Scrum teams when implementing agility around a product. In fact, it’s a fundamental error, with regard to the very structure of Scrum.

Organizing the unknown is a waste of time

Sprint 0 generally consists in preparing the launch of agility in the traditional way, by trying to fix a certain number of principles based on totally theoretical thinking about what the team should, logically, discover empirically, in line with the three pillars of agility: transparency, adaptation, inspection…

Unfortunately, this approach is at odds with the very foundations of Scrum.

Firstly, according to Scrum, the objective of a Sprint is to “Deliver a functional product”, but Sprint 0 conflicts with this principle, as no functional delivery is made.

Secondly, Scrum is based on an empirical approach. It’s all about enabling a team to discover and appropriate the real challenges it’s going to face, enabling it to experiment with the best solutions available to it, while always respecting the Sprint objective. This deprives the team of the courage and commitment needed to overcome the difficulties of the first Sprint.

Sprint 0 ultimately acts as a disempowering action for the team, which should apply theoretical decisions presented as factual. It’s certainly a failure from which the team can learn nothing. It’s a net waste of time and effort, and hampers team confidence where the first Sprint should be building it. 

How to start the first Sprint successfully

The key to a successful first Sprint lies in managing expectations, not in applying the conclusions of a Sprint 0. The first Sprint can be difficult, but rather than adding a preliminary step, the team should be encouraged to aim for a realistic Sprint goal.

The Product Backlog and Sprint Backlog do not need to be complete before launching the first Sprint. The team can start with a Sprint goal based on a few elements of the Sprint Backlog. It must be able to accept uncertainty and build up its operations as it goes along, adapting its own methods and choosing the right tools for what it discovers.

For the team to have any chance of success, it is essential that it immerses itself in real experience from the outset. Because Scrum is easy to learn but difficult to master, the first Sprint will certainly require a great deal of effort, but it will be rich in learning about the real challenges of Scrum, providing the team with the knowledge to improve. 

Editor : 
Jean-Marc Larroque – Agile Coach, Scrum Master, Trainer and e-Commerce Web Technology Consultant at Clever Age
Check out Jean-Marc’s blog for more Agile content.

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