Who here just started a new job? Or maybe you’re about to start a new job? This is the situation I recently faced. It’s stressful, and it was important to me that I make a strong, lasting, and positive first impression. In fact, let’s talk about that today, but before we do, I’d like to give a big shout out to rands. A decade ago, I ran into his blog. It was the first blog I ever followed, and his advice in Ninety Days is something I reread before I start any new job. In it, he suggests that the interview continues through the first ninety days on the job. I agree, and I can relate with his piece of advice here:
Words are hard. They shouldn’t be, but they are. We each internalize a definition of a word, and more oft than not, our internal definition conflicts with someone else’s. Even ancient Greek philosophers like Epictetus faced this problem offering this advice:
First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.
Today, let’s talk about two words I see organizations and individuals struggle with: process and efficiency.
In my experience, these are terrible words. Of course, they didn’t start as terrible. They began as respectable words. After all, wouldn’t we want efficient teams? And shouldn’t we manage our chaotic environments by adhering to some process? Perhaps. Unfortunately, their definitions vary so widely from one person to the next that I do my best to avoid them all together.
In my previous blog post, I talked about sprints in the ethereal discussing their similarities to deadlines and reminding us to be inquisitive of the world around us. However, I offered no practical advice. Today, I’d like to remedy that. Below, I tackle many common questions about sprints. Let’s get started.
So What’s the Right Sprint Length?
As short as we can get away with but probably no shorter than a week. Every sprint is an opportunity to learn, and we want to maximize this learning. At the review, we learn how valuable–or not–our increment was from our customers. At the retro, we learn how well–or not–we worked together from our team. As such, the shorter this cycle is, the more often we can learn. Before we begin using one-week sprints, however, we need to ask ourselves an important question:
Let’s talk about sprints. What’s the right length? When should they begin and end? On a Monday and Friday, respectively, or is another schedule more appropriate? Should we ever change the length of our sprints? These are all good questions, and we’ll get to them, but let’s start with something more fundamental. Why even have them?
In interviews, I’ll often ask this question to Scrum Masters:
What part of the Scrum framework do you find odd or disagreeable?
My answer? Sprints. I find them odd. How often do we scoff at deadlines? Deadlines are for waterfall projects, not for the awesome product that our Scrum team is crafting, we say. Then we point to the iron triangle, talk about how we prioritize our backlog guaranteeing the most important work gets done first, and finally we negotiate scope to meet whatever dates are necessary. But don’t tell me that this story needs to be done by September 1st. That’s not how we operate.
But isn’t the end of a sprint a deadline? [Read more…]