To Sprint or Not

The sprint is the basic unit of productive time in Scrum. According to the official Scrum Guide (2017 version), the sprint is “the heart” of Scrum, a period of less than one month during which teams commit to and complete usable pieces of functionality. The sprint is the container for everything else – planning, working, reviewing product and process.

Sprints are valuable constraints in any type of knowledge work. Scrum was created to help software teams accomplish more work on a regular basis rather than dawdling until right before the release date. The sprint is frame within that work is done.

Should Agile Faculty sprint? Totally up to you.

I honestly go back and forth on it. When I do sprint, it’s usually in 2-3 week timeboxes, such as the three-week window I used this January for my writing challenge. Pre-sprint, I chose a couple of things to focus on completely during that time, set up my Scrum board with only those projects, and tried to focus on the work I had committed to (results were mix as you’ll see in the post).

When I’m not sprinting, I’m still being Agile and using my Scrum board; my goals are still prioritized and I use them to guide my work, but I don’t timebox it. I just plan, execute, and reflect regularly instead of in a two-week period. This is closer to Kanban, which you can learn more about here and in this Book Club post I wrote about Dominica DeGrandis’s recent book, Making Work Visible.

Personally, I find that I don’t need to sprint to be productive in meeting my goals, but it helps if I’m working with a group because we can time our work and meetings according to a sprint cycle. Sprinting also becomes useful when I find I’m not making progress without the accountability. So I might bring a colleague in, talk about what I’m going to accomplish in two weeks, and then schedule a meeting with that peer to meet for extra accountability.

Do you sprint or go with the Kanban flow? What works best for you, and why?

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I teach Professional Writing and Rhetoric in the Department of English at Elon University. Specifically, I teach courses in professional communication and rhetorical theory, publishing, project management, and workplace research methods. My research interests include collaboration strategies in the classroom and workplace, written artifacts that mediate collaboration, and Agile project management strategies. @RPR_Elon on Twitter

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