Scrum, Sprint Zero (NO), and Prototyping

This content is syndicated from Agile & Business by Joe Little. To view the original post in full, click here.

I was talking with some smart people at a client. They said: "We do a Sprint -1 where we do rapid prototyping. We do a Sprint every day, produce a new version of the GUI, etc and review it with the customer team daily. It lasts for 2 weeks, or did last time. It is mainly visuals to help us in discussions with the customer about what they really want. Generally low fidelity, generally throw-away code (to the degree it is coded)." I am, perhaps slightly famously, against the Sprint Zero concept. I will describe that more fully elsewhere. But the basic idea is that I don't like a Sprint that results in no working software. More generally, I don't like a Sprint Zero because it includes (mostly/only) work about which the team can get no objective feedback from someone useful...did it contribute toward what the customers really want? So, it is mainly the lack of real feedback that troubles me. So, how does the situation presented by this client compare to this? To me, the client is doing an excellent job, at least so far as we can tell from the conversation, in trying hard to understand what the customer really wants. In general, I find abstract conversations with customers are of low value, while conversations that include visuals, and include, where relevant, some work flow, can be much much more useful. This seems to be the case. That they produce some 'working product' DAILY that can be usefully discussed with the customer to get feedback seems excellent. Yes, this working product is not working software as we typically have in a Sprint in Scrum. But this seems far less important in this case than that they are increasing and tightening the feedback loop with the client. That they call the 1 or 2 week effort Sprint -1 does not thrill me, honestly. It suggests to others that a Sprint Zero concept is ok, even good. That someone speaks of doing a daily 'sprint' within the Sprint -1...well, as an English major I want to quibble about word usage. (Minor really.) That the prototypes are throw-away does not seem, on the surface, ideal. But maybe quite appropriate. To me, the main thing is that they are increasing rather than decreasing the feedback. And tightening (speeding up) the feedback loop. This has to be good. What is less clear (at least from that conversation) is how well the feedback is happening through the rest of the delivery effort. Perhaps more on that later. Net, net: Some people feel that every accommodation made between Scrum and reality is necessarily not doing Scrum 'right'...although maybe still the right thing to do. It is true that too many people are subtracting from Scrum (which we tend to call 'ScrumBut'). And in almost every case we find that to be....not good for them, really. But adding to Scrum, and I want to call the above usage of 'Sprint -1' an addition, adding to Scrum is, in general, necessary and typically a good thing. Yes, a Sprint Zero (as described above) would be a bad addition, in our view, but in general additions to Scrum are necessary and useful. The key is: are the additions made in the context of lean-agile-scrum values and principles. Such as, the principle of increasing the feedback so that the bad news does not get better with age. Sometimes, two or more lean-agile-scrum principles will come into conflict in a specific case. Then the question is which principle should have precedence.

Leave a Reply

What is 10 + 9 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
Please do this simple sum so I know you are human:)

There are 101 ways to approach anything.
To find the best way, sometimes you need expert help

What People Say

“Kelly revolutionised the way our digital department operated. A true advocate of agile principles, he quickly improved internal communication within our teams and our internal clients by aligning our business and creating a much enhanced sense of transparency in the decisions the business was making. Kelly also introduced a higher sense of empowerment to the development teams...”


“Kelly’s a leading program director with the ability to take charge from day one and keep strong momentum at both a program and project level driving prioritisation, resourcing and budgeting agendas. Kelly operates with an easy-going style and possesses a strong facilitation skill set. From my 5 months experience working with Kelly, I would recommend Kelly to program manage large scale, complex, cross company change programs both from a business and IT perspective.”


“Kelly is an extremely talented and visionary leader. As such he manages to inspire all around him to achieve their best. He is passionate about agile and has a wealth of experience to bring to bear in this area. If you're 'lucky' he might even tell you all about his agile blog. Above all this, Kelly is great fun to work with. He is always relaxed and never gets stressed - and trust me, he had plenty of opportunity here! If you get the chance to work with Kelly, don't pass it up.”


“Kelly is an Agile heavy-weight. He came in to assess my multi-million $ Agile development program which wasn’t delivering the right throughput. He interviewed most of the team and made some key recommendations that, when implemented, showed immediate results. I couldn’t ask for more than that except he’s a really nice guy as well.”


“Kelly and I worked together on a very large project trying to secure a new Insurer client. Kelly had fantastic commercial awareness as well as his technical expertise. Without him I would never had secured this client so I owe a lot to him. He is also a really great guy!”


“Kelly came to the department and has really made a huge impact on how the department communicates, collaborates and generally gets things done. We were already developing in an agile way, but Kelly has brought us even more into alignment with agile and scrum best practices, being eager to share information and willing to work with us to change our processes rather than dictate how things must be done. He is highly knowledgable about agile development (as his active blog proves) but his blog won't show what a friendly and knowledgeable guy he is. I highly recommend Kelly to anyone looking for a CTO or a seminar on agile/scrum practices - you won't be disappointed!”


“Kelly was a great colleague to work with - highly competent, trustworthy and generally a nice bloke.”


“Kelly was engaged as a Program Director on a complex business and technology transformation program for Suncorp Commercial Insurance. Kelly drew on his key capabilities and depth of experience to bring together disparate parties in a harmonised way, ensuring the initiate and concept phases of the program were understood and well formulated. Excellent outcome in a very short time frame. ”


“I worked with Kelly on many projects at IPC and I was always impressed with his approach to all of them, always ensuring the most commercially viable route was taken. He is great at managing relationships and it was always a pleasure working with him.”


“I worked with Kelly whilst at Thoughtworks and found him to be a most inspiring individual, his common-sense approach coupled with a deep understanding of Agile and business makes him an invaluable asset to any organisation. I can't recommend Kelly enough.”


“Kelly was a brilliant CTO and a great support to me in the time we worked together. I owe Kelly a great deal in terms of direction and how to get things done under sometimes difficult circumstances. Thanks Kelly.”