Sprint Duration: How Long Should Sprints Be?
How long is a sprint? Generally speaking, sprints should last anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks. The length of a sprint should be determined based on your project and the capacity of your team.
Whether you want the length of a sprint to be weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month depends on the scope and nature of the project.
Determine how much work can realistically be completed before deciding on the duration of your sprints. If short sprints cannot be completed properly, then pushing for weekly sprints will only burn your team out and create a toxic work culture.
Looking to learn more about sprints? This article walks you through the following:
- Sprints in Scrum recap: The basics and important definitions
- How to create a sprint in practice: Step-by-step workflow + free template
- Short sprints: indicators and solutions for sprints that fall short on time
- Long sprints: indicators and solutions for sprints that are too lengthy
You can also get directly started with the 🎁 FREE sprint planning template. Invite others and manage sprints from a single project management space with tasks, notes, chat and more.
Sprints length in Scrum recap: everything you should know
Scrum is an agile project management framework that helps teams reach their goals by providing structure and guidance. The sprint length in scrum is 1 to 4 weeks because it allows teams to quickly iterate on work and deliver output in short collaboration cycles.
With sprints, teams can stay agile in fast-paced environments that deal with a lot of uncertainty. Here are a few terms you might have come across, or which are relevant to know when discussing sprint duration:
- Scrum master: The scrum master is the team member responsible for implementing the scrum framework. They act as a coach and facilitator, and work to remove any roadblocks that may prevent the team from achieving their goals.
- Scrum ceremonies: Sprint planning, daily scrums, sprint reviews, and retrospective meetings are all considered scrum ceremonies. They are essential to the implementation of scrum and help keep teams on track while maximizing productivity.
- Backlog: the backlog is a list of tasks that need to be completed during a sprint. The backlog contains goals and technical tasks that are broken down into smaller packages to help teams focus on what needs to be done.
Next up, let's dive into the actual planning and definition of a sprint. We have defined the process to support teams in different business functions. Think managing a sprint in engineering, marketing, customer success or even sales.
How to manage a scrum sprint: step-by-step
There are multiple stages to a sprint in Scrum. Each stage has different activities that help the team to stay organized at work and complete tasks.
Common stages in sprints are: pre-planning, Working Breakdown Structure (WBS), task completion, testing and review, and retrospective.
Pre-Planning: the cornerstone of any good sprint
Pre-planning entails establishing goals, timelines, resources, and budgets before starting any work. This stage also includes stakeholder meetings to align expectations. Gather everyone to discuss the sprint's parameters.
Remember, thorough pre-planning reduces surprises. It helps avoid mid-sprint confusion and setbacks. Invest time in this phase for a successful, productive sprint.
The sprint planning template includes a step-by-step process to complete the pre-planning of your next sprint. Define goals, set the duration of your sprint, allocate resources and set your budget.
Agile working breakdown structure: A sprint essential
Next up: the Working Breakdown Structure (WBS). The WBS helps teams break down goals defined in the pe-planning stage into smaller, more manageable tasks that are positioned in the backlog for the upcoming sprint.
This allows the scrum master to track progress through task management and keep an eye on progress, blockers and resource usage throughout the sprint.
When creating a WBS, it's important to keep the following in mind:
- Tasks should be SMART: Specific and Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
- Individual tasks should be time-based, with a start and finish date assigned.
- Priorities should be set based on importance and urgency.
- Every individual action item should be related to the overall goal of the sprint.
- Keep the difference between project vs task in mind so tasks don’t become overwhelming.
The ultimate output of WBS is a set of SMART tasks that should be completed throughout the duration of your sprint. Teams can decide who will be working on what and when each individual task must be completed.
Task completion/sprint work
During the sprint, it's important to track progress and make sure that tasks are being completed on time. Weekly to-do lists, scrum ceremonies and active task tracking all are activities that can help with this.
The scrum master should monitor progress and ensure obstacles are addressed swiftly. Follow these best practices to help your team with task completion:
- Prioritize tasks: Rank tasks based on importance, dependencies, and impact on the project. Tackle high-priority tasks first.
- Set realistic goals: Ensure sprint goals are achievable within the sprint duration. Don't overcommit or underestimate effort.
- Communicate: Foster open communication within the team. Address roadblocks, share progress, and offer support.
- Use time-boxing: Allocate fixed time slots for tasks. This promotes focus and discourages procrastination.
- Limit work-in-progress: Encourage team members to complete one task before starting another. This reduces context-switching.
You can seamlessly incorporate these best practices with our dedicated sprint planning template. Click here to get started for free!
Review & testing
At the end of each sprint, teams should review their progress and conduct any necessary testing to ensure that tasks are completed correctly.
Sprints in scrum are all about learning and iterating. Frequent feedback plays a pivotal role in ensuring your output hits the mark. Engage with stakeholders and your target audience, soaking up their insights to refine your priorities.
Keep a close eye on the numbers, too. Key performance indicators (KPIs) help you understand the value of the work completed.
For instance, marketing teams can monitor metrics like conversion rates, click-through rates, and engagement levels. This way they can make data-driven decisions to fine-tune strategies and allocate resources effectively.
We share more examples and a step-by-step process for defining your very own KPI’s in the sprint planning template. Bring your project management to the next level and get started today for free!
Team retrospective: Reflect, learn and adapt
After the sprint is over, teams should get together to discuss the output. Team retrospectives help assess workload, KPI completion, collaboration and more. These experiences can help you improve the pre-planning, WBS configuration and KPI’s for your next sprint.
New to retrospectives? Here are some best practices to follow:
- Foster psychological safety: Encourage open and honest communication. Create an environment where team members can share their thoughts without fear of judgment.
- Stay focused on the process: Keep discussions centered on the process, not individuals. Avoid blame and focus on how to improve as a team.
- Encourage participation: Ensure all team members have an opportunity to speak. Use techniques like round-robin or silent brainstorming to give everyone a voice.
- Keep it positive: Balance discussions of challenges with recognition of successes. Celebrate accomplishments and learn from both positive and negative experiences.
- Be action-oriented: Focus on identifying actionable steps for improvement. Prioritize and assign responsibility for implementing these changes in the next sprint.
- Set a time limit: Keep retrospectives focused and time-boxed to maintain momentum and avoid lengthy, unfocused discussions.
- Document outcomes: Capture key takeaways, action items, and assigned responsibilities. Share this information with the team and refer back to it in future retrospectives.
💡 Tip: Make sure share your meeting agenda at least 48 hours in advance so everyone can write down discussion items, share documents and prepare accordingly.
The sprint planning project management template includes a step-by-step process on retrospectives. Access the project space for free and plan your next retrospective today!
Are your sprints too short? Here are 3 signs to keep an eye out for
If your sprint duration is too short, then it's likely that most tasks are not completed in time or to an acceptable standard. Here are a few ways you can spot your sprint being too short:
- You are spending too much time in retros & planning: Retros and planning lose value if they take up too much of the overall sprint cycle. If you find that these activities are taking up too much valuable time, then your sprints might be too short.
- Output is too small: Your sprint time might be too short if the output from your sprints is not considered a completed phase or enough output. This could hint that you are not providing enough time for the team to complete their tasks.
- Overloaded teams: There will not be enough time for people to take breaks if the sprints are too short. Remember that the scrum process should help foster collaboration and align with your communication strategies.
Do you think your team might be facing one of the previously mentioned issues? Then read on for potential solutions.
What to do if your sprint duration is too short
Do you think that your sprint duration is too short? Consider the following strategies to course-correct and optimize the sprint planning process:
- Reassess goals and tasks: Review the goals and determine if they need to be broken down into smaller, more achievable tasks within the sprint. Additionally, try revisiting the backlog to re-prioritize tasks based on importance and dependencies.
- Extend the sprint duration: If feasible, increase the sprint length to accommodate the workload. Be cautious though, longer sprints can reduce focus and agility. Aim for a balance between time and momentum.
- Improve task estimation: Analyze the accuracy of your task estimations and refine your estimation techniques. This helps in setting realistic timelines and reducing the risk of falling short in future sprints.
- Streamline communication: Encourage transparent and effective communication within the team. This way you can identify and address obstacles early, reducing delays and keeping the sprint on track.
- Implement a sprint buffer: Allocate a small percentage of the sprint's capacity as a buffer for unexpected work, emergencies, or delays. This absorbs unforeseen changes without impacting the overall sprint timeline.
Don't be afraid to reassess and adjust your sprint durations. With careful planning, teams can achieve company goals and objectives while enjoying a healthy working environment.
4 signs that might indicate your sprints are too long
On the other hand, your sprint duration can also be too long. Here are a few signs that might indicate you need to reduce the sprint length:
- Teams accelerate as sprints near their end: Teams increase their productivity as they near the end of a sprint. The lack of pressure to finalize work allows teams to procrastinate and leave activities for the end.
- Teams lose perspective on work: There is less understanding of what user story or overall goal a sprint is actually covering. When there are too many tasks in a sprint and work just piles up, it becomes a challenge to understand what everyone is working towards.
- Teams become disengaged: If a project drags on, then the team might start to lose enthusiasm toward it. This can lead to procrastination and a lack of commitment.
- Mini waterfalls emerge: A mini waterfall is a phenomenon that occurs when different sets of tasks are blocking each other within the same sprint in order to complete a user story.
Up next, we discuss some strategies you can implement if you think your sprints are too long.
What to do if your sprints are too long
Consider implementing one or more of the following strategies if you feel your sprints are too long.
- Introduce mid-sprint check-ins: Establish checkpoints within the sprint to assess progress, reevaluate priorities, and make adjustments. This can help maintain focus and momentum throughout the sprint.
- Leverage timeboxing techniques: Timebox specific tasks or activities within the sprint to encourage focused work and prevent tasks from dragging on.
- Encourage cross-collaboration: Encourage team members to work together on tasks to promote knowledge sharing, faster problem-solving, and efficient task completion.
- Establish a Definition of Ready (DoR): Develop a clear set of criteria that tasks must meet before being included in a sprint. This helps ensure tasks are well-defined and minimizes the risk of unexpected delays.
- Implement stretch objectives: Set primary goals and include stretch objectives to tackle if the team completes the main goals ahead of schedule.
In conclusion, if your sprints are too long, it's essential to identify the underlying causes and take appropriate action. By thoughtfully adjusting your sprint length, you can optimize your Agile process and empower your team to deliver consistent, high-quality results.
Manage your sprints in one place with Rock
Recap: How long is a sprint in agile? Scrum or agile sprint length should be anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks.
Implementing sprints can help improve productivity in your organization. Rock natively combines task management with chat so you can merge project management and team communications in one place.
Collaborate with your team no matter where you are in the project by utilizing the Chat and Topics mini-apps. Link to any task, note, person, or file by simply mentioning @ ____ in the chat.
Rock also provides an in-depth approach to task management with list, board, and calendar views. Task cards are full of features such as a dedicated sprint feature, assignees, labels, cloud file attachments, followers, comment sections and so much more!
Ready to get started? Sign up today to create tasks, invite team members and manage full projects. Need some extra help? Access our sprint planning template with examples, workflow and definitions, all for free.