The Power of the One-Week Sprint
Are you encountering Scrum teams who exhibit several patterns at odds with high-functioning teams? Some examples may include stand ups that are 45 minutes long, drawn out refinement sessions, stories that are consistently rolled over from sprint to sprint because they cannot be completed within sprint boundaries, or because acceptance criteria were misinterpreted and could not be accepted.
All of the above are challenges that Scrum teams struggle with, and luckily there are many approaches you can take to move teams to operating well. One of those approaches is to have the team operate on a one-week sprint. This can be a controversial and disconcerting move for some teams, especially those who are used to protracted timeframes for delivering functionality. Don’t be surprised if some teams strongly resist the idea. One week – some teams may exclaim – that is too short! How can we get anything done?
The answer lies in the practice and mindset that the one-week sprint is designed to foster: the ability to create smaller batches of work that can be completed, tested, and reviewed for feedback so that the team knows that it’s on the right track. For a one week-sprint, teams have to work in close collaboration with their Product Owner to identify small pieces of high-value work that is potentially shippable. As a result, several phenomena occur, including shorter, more focused stand ups, shorter refinement sessions, faster learning cycles, and greater communication and self-organization among team members. The short time box is a forcing function for teamwork. Communication and efficiency are key when there is such a short time to deliver!
One-week sprints can also be helpful for teams trying to break the habit of “waterfalling” their sprint, with separate stories for design, development, and testing. In such a short period of time, these disciplines have to work together (sometimes teaching each other) to meet their goals.
Teams do not need to stay with the one-week sprint forever. Maybe they move back to a longer time box at a later time. However, we have seen many teams who stay with the one-week sprint as their regular cadence because they like the short feedback cycle.
The thought of a one-week sprint can be daunting, but the benefits it produces can be worth giving it a try. Once the team starts producing consistently and strengthens trust with their business partners by showing actual value, they feel in control and successful.