Scrum Rules: No Work is Performed Between Sprints

May 29, 2020
4 minute read

Each Sprint that a Scrum Team does is an opportunity for learning through “inspection and adaptation”. If there is a break or a pause between Sprints, the Scrum Team may forget what it has learned or fail to apply that learning in a timely manner in the next Sprint. Of course, many Scrum Teams end a Sprint before a weekend and start their next Sprint at the beginning of the next week. This non-working break is normal and acceptable. However, a break between Sprints during which some or all Scrum Team Members do other work is not acceptable.

Breaks between Sprints indicate a problem. Usually such breaks are filled with planning activities including research, requirements gathering, design and preparation, negotiations and approvals, or filled with delivery activities such as fixing problems, side-of-desk work, special requests, and cleanup. The problem with this is fourfold:

  1. Such plans are based on conjecture (risky and not compatible with Scrum) rather than empiricism (less risky and compatible with Scrum). Those activities are most beneficial when performed by skilled inspectors at the point of the work. The four formal events within each Sprint provide the team and stakeholders adequate opportunity for inspection and ensure that decisions are being made in light of the up-to-date product Increment and with respect to current user needs and market conditions.
  2. Such delivery activities are real work and should be accounted in the Scrum Team’s capacity to adjust plans for each Sprint.  Putting that work outside the Sprint hides it.
  3. Breaks between Sprints often include activities which do not add value to the product or are unrelated.
  4. Breaks between Sprints defer the delivery of value because the work performed does not result in a potentially-releasable Increment of “Done” product.

To correct this problem it is important to identify whether any of the effort spent between Sprints is adding value to the product – that is, which activities affect the form, fit, or function of the actual product. If determined to not be value adding, stop the activity – it is a waste. If determined to be value adding, the Scrum Team may decide that either the activity should be represented and ordered in the Product Backlog, or should be represented in the team’s Definition of Done.

At the very least, all of this extra work needs to be visible so that the team and the organization can make informed decisions about its existence.  The Scrum Master is responsible for creating this transparency.

A new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint. – The Scrum Guide

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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