You should feel lost during the first sprint

QuestionWhen implementing scrum for the first time, you read all about the roles, meetings, user stories and more. However, when it comes to planning the first sprint, most of us feel lost and unsure in what exactly needs to be done.

The basic steps of a sprint are pretty straightforward – plan, execute and finish, with the help of various meetings in between. However, after starting to implement, a lot of questions and uncertainties seem to appear and at this point most of the teams tend to start looking for the best practices. Unfortunately there is no such thing, and it is each team’s specificity that determines how the sprint needs to be organized. In other words, the best practices can only be created by the team itself.

While the best practices do not exist, there are some guidelines that you can follow to make the process smoother. Here is our take on the most important ones.

The duration of the sprint. Deciding what the duration of the sprint is going to be is completely up to you. However, remember two things – at the end of the sprint you have to provide an incremental value to the end customer and the sprint should be a relatively short iteration when compared to the whole project (most of the sprints run between 7 and 30 days).

During the first sprint, you will not know the velocity of your team, therefore you can determine the amount of time required to complete the chosen user stories, by the hours assigned to their tasks. Keep in mind, that this tactic should be only used for the first sprint and dropped for the following sprints.

Assigning hours to tasks. When you evaluate your tasks in terms of hours necessary to complete them, remember that tasks are meant to be short and concise. It is a common practice for teams not to have any tasks exceeding an 8 hour limit and if they do – divide them into smaller tasks. However, make sure that you do not follow this rule blindly and take account of the type of business you are in.

Daily meetings. If you and your team has not previously had daily meetings, this will take some getting used to. The important thing here is to be strict with rules – the same time every day, the same duration and no waiting for the late team members. Also keep the time allocated to each team member as short as possible, one or two minutes per person, depending on your team size. After a while you will establish a rhythm and find this short meeting to be an important part of your teams end goal.

Review meeting. It is here that you will present your work to the stakeholders. You should always discuss only the work completed during the sprint. Remember that it is the stakeholders that approve or deny the completion of the work. And if the work is not approved, the team has to organize a new sprint to complete it.

Retrospective meeting. This is the meeting that will bring the most value to your future sprints, especially at the beginning. Make sure the team attends and actively participates in this meeting, discussing the last sprint and providing suggestions for the next one. It is here that you will draw the knowledge and answers needed for the rest of the project.

In short, do not be afraid of the uncertainty which comes with your first sprint, but instead embrace it by being flexible and accepting the changes to come. If you do, soon you will also have the best practices that fit your teams’ needs exactly and plan sprints like a pro.

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