Our Sprint Framework

Michael Luchen

Product Management

Sprints come in varying lengths with assortments of meeting types and cadences. They can last from 1 to 4 weeks or more in length and they can have multiple types of meetings occur within them. With one of our core values being constant improvement, our team has intentionally experimented over time to lock in on the best sprint framework for us.

Years of our product teams practicing scrum have helped us iterate to our current sprint framework. In place for quite some time, it has successfully served us on many engagements for multiple product types. It serves large enterprise products down to small startup products that aim to scale. It works well in teams of 3 and in growing teams over 10.

Our framework is largely consistent, understood by all of our product teams and even guides the rhythm of our company.

Here’s a breakdown of how it works:

Duration

Each sprint lasts two weeks. This provides an effective amount of time to incrementally move products forward but not so much that it prohibits timely iteration to scope. If a product we are working on is particularly small, we may use a one week sprint.

Timeline

Our sprints run from Wednesday to Wednesday. We’ve found that starting and concluding sprints in the middle of the week avoids drag on Mondays.

All of our product sprints are kept on the same cycle to provide consistency for all team members. This is particularly valuable for team members who are part-time on multiple products. Keeping a consistent rhythm also allows our company to engage in shared experiences, such as Innovation Lab Fridays and all-team events.

Meetings

We schedule a set of recurring meetings that anchor our sprints. While ad-hoc meetings are encouraged throughout a sprint to hash out a problem, these standard, recurring meetings aim to provide the foundation for effective and efficient work being completed. Our standard meetings include:

Wednesday Kickoffs

  • 1 to 2.5 hours in length.
  • These start with a retrospective, where the product team reviews what was and wasn’t completed in the previous sprint. The team also considers what went well in the prior sprint and what can be improved in the next. Time permitting, product demos are presented to the team.
  • After the retrospective, the team engages in a product backlog review, where changes and additions to the product backlog are reviewed and discussed. If a backlog item is defined and understood well enough to be estimated, the team estimates it.
  • Finally, the meeting concludes with a sprint planning session, where the product team selects and pulls prioritized work in the product release backlog into the plan for the next sprint. The team uses this time to work together to break down tasks and understand dependencies amongst one another to complete this work. In tandem with this, the product team identifies a sprint goal, which envisions the guiding outcome for the sprint.
  • It’s worth noting that many product teams typically split these components of Wednesday Kickoffs into 3 separate and potentially lengthy meetings. While there are numerous benefits to this, we’ve found that cultivating a culture of frequent communication and transparency, as well as condensing these meetings to Wednesdays, frees up more time for working on products throughout a sprint.

Product Backlog Reviews

  • 30 minutes to 1 hour in length.
  • Not to be confused with the product backlog review component of Wednesday Kickoffs, these reviews are set up for the client product owner, our product strategist and product manager to review the overall product backlog. During this time, the priority order of the backlog is reviewed and reordered if priorities are changed, due to user or stakeholder feedback. These review meetings enable a consistent dialog to ensure that the product is always prioritized to maximize investment on the journey to product market fit.
  • The work completed in these reviews informs the product prioritization used in our Wednesday Kickoffs.

Daily Standups

  • 15 minutes in length.
  • At the start of each day during the sprint, the product team meets in person or through a video call. Each team member, including contractors we partner with, takes their turn to briefly state what they completed yesterday, what they plan to do today and if they have anything blocking their progress.
  • These brief daily meetings help keep our product teams focused on achieving the sprint goal.
Consistency Empowers Great Product Experiences

Through crafting and maintaining a consistent framework across all products, we’re able to cultivate an environment for building great product experiences. When process helps set consistent expectations and doesn’t throw any surprises, our team is able to focus on doing our best work and serving our clients well.

Originally posted on Ideas by Crema - Medium Feb 22, 2018