The Rules of Scrum: Every Sprint is the Same Length

The Sprint is the fundamental unit of work when using Scrum.  Any product development effort using Scrum is, therefore, divided into Sprints.  Sprints are fixed in length so that the team has a predictable amount of time available to them to do work, which in turn assists in both short and long-term planning.  By making every Sprint the same length, the Scrum Team learns its own capacity for work.  If the Sprint length changes, the rhythm of Scrum is broken and a team will have to re-learn its capacity which usually takes at least a few Sprints.  If Sprints are rarely the same length, then the Scrum Team will struggle to do any reliable planning.

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About Mishkin Berteig

Mishkin Berteig is a Baha'i, a father of four, a husband and an experienced Agile consultant and trainer. Mishkin is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) with the Scrum Alliance, a certified Master of OpenAgile with the OpenAgile Centre for Learning and a certified SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) with the Scaled Agile Academy. Mishkin has a technical background including a B.Sc. in Computer Science and worked as a Chief Architect reporting to the CIO of Charles Schwab, but gave it up to be more Agile.

3 thoughts on “The Rules of Scrum: Every Sprint is the Same Length

  1. Makes totally sense. Otherwise you screw all efforts put into estimating story points or alike.
    On the other hand, you will encounter holidays or bank holidays. Which means they will alter your planning. In this case I preferred to change the sprint length, but made the team consider this shortage of days when accepting stories. This had the advantage that the meetings (review, retro, planning) will remain in the same slots and thus stay consistent – which is in some projects really important as stakeholders tend to be less flexible regarding their meeting calendars.
    Opinions welcome!

  2. I understand the concept, and I would plan for all my sprints to be the same length, except in exceptional circumstances. Specifically, The majority of the team will be on vacation for 1, 2 or 3 weeks of a 3 week sprint – how can you possibly use a sprint like this to estimate velocity when, 2 sprints down the road, everyone is back, working full time on the sprint? I wanted to have, approximately at least, the same number of work days. And what do you do when you add/lose team members from one sprint to the next? The last 3 sprint’s velocity is moot because this sprint you have more/less people to get the work done. I ask this before tweeking the sprint length during the summer months to better reflect the reality of vacations. Or are vacations not “pure Scrum” ?

    • Hi Don,

      Great question! There are a few things to consider related to Sprint length and the people on your team. There are statutory holidays, there are vacations, and of course illness. Generally Scrum requires that the Sprint lengths stay the same so we have to find ways of adapting to the changes to our level of engagement of the various people on the team. Some of those ways are simply to adapt our level of commitment to a Sprint. Teams with a relatively stable velocity may decide to deliberately lower their velocity if there are people away. However, tracking exact hours of available time generally does not add any significant level of certainty about how much gets done in an under-staffed Sprint. Instead, the team should be creative about adapting to these sorts of problems and investigate things like cross-training, creative technical solutions, etc.

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