Our Scrum students and consulting clients often ask questions about Sprint cadence:
- “Can you hold your Sprint Review and Sprint Planning back to back?”
- “When is the best time to do Product Backlog Refinement?”
- “What day should we start the Sprint on?”
A well-structured and well-communicated Sprint cadence is one of the essential elements of successful Scrum. When one Sprint ends, the next begins, Sprint Planning is always the first event in the Sprint and every day the developers gather to plan in the Daily Scrum. Having good Sprint cadence leads to predictability and supports the Scrum Value of Focus. A team with cadence is able to focus on the right things at the right time leading to better outcomes.
What is a good cadence for your Sprints? The Scrum Guide defines what the events are and in what order they come — though it leaves open the question of duration, only providing a guide on the max time box for each.
If you aren’t sure where to go from here, or if what you’re doing isn’t quite working, we have some recommendations based on our experience working with organizations of all types and sizes.
Sprint Cadence Template
We recommend two week Sprints, beginning on Thursday, ending on Wednesday.
Download the Sprint Cadence Template as .xlsx
Let’s break this down and explain it…
Two week Sprints: We recommend two week Sprints as the best balance of the three pillars of Scrum Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation. Two weeks gives you twenty six chances a year to ask “Are we on course, do we need to adjust” while not overloading your stakeholders with a Sprint Review every single week.
Start on Thursday, end on Wednesday: Mondays and Fridays are the worst days of the week to have critical meetings. These days are often company holidays, unofficial holidays or time taken to get that “long weekend” mini vacation. And in the rising era of remote working Fridays are often marked off as “No Meeting” days. Even before Scrum, good management practices advised against important meetings before noon on Monday or after noon on Friday. An added benefit is it means deployment activities can be occurring on Thursdays and Fridays instead of over the weekend, eating into your team’s personal time. (One alternate we endorse is start on Wednesday, end on Tuesday, though we prefer Thursday/Wednesday).
No Daily Scrum on start/end: While we are the first to tell you the team needs to get together every day, having a Daily Scrum on the first and last day of the Sprint is a little redundant. By Tuesday night you team should be all ready for the Sprint Review and there is no need to meet again before that. On Thursday you start the day with Sprint Planning as the first thing you do in a new Sprint.
Schedule time for Backlog Refinement: The Scrum Guide refers to Product Backlog Refinement as an “ongoing activity”. While we agree that there should always be a steady beat of refinement throughout the Sprint, having a formal time to get together lends itself to the predictability of cadence. We recommend at minimum two sessions a Sprint of sixty to ninety minutes each. New teams or teams with a new product may need to spend more time early on to get the Backlog in a good state.
Rehearse your Sprint Review: You want to make sure everyone is aligned on what increments will be demonstrated, what order they will be reviewed, who will show what, and technical logistics of how to show an increment. The Sprint Review is when you are collaborating with your stakeholders and you want to make the most of that time. See How to Run an Effective Sprint Review for more information.
Time Box Recommendations
We highly recommend setting the maximum time box for each event. No one argues when a meeting ends early. Conversely, asking people to stay ten more minutes usually is followed by a chorus of “Sorry, I’m late for another meeting.” By scheduling for the maximum time you know you always have it available and it again creates that cadence and predictability.
For a two week Sprint we recommend the following time boxes:
- Sprint Planning: 4 Hours
- Daily Scrum: 30 minutes
- The Daily Scrum is always 15 minutes. The second 15 minutes gives space for ad hoc post event conversation
- Sprint Review: 2 Hours
- Sprint Retrospective: 90 minutes
Creating a predictable and steady cadence in your Scrum leads to greater focus, which leads to greater predictability and improves the probability of your Sprints ending with valuable outcomes.
Additional Reading Related to Sprint Cadence
Want to learn more about Scrum best practices? Check out the following articles:
How to Improve Your Daily Scrum
Good ScrumMasters Don’t Have Boring Meetings
Scrum with Kanban: How to Improve Your Sprints
Adapting Scrum: Know Your Limits