Can work be added during a sprint?

by Doug Shimp on October 10th, 2009
  1. You should never add work during a sprint
  2. If the Product Owner wants it then put it in
  3. As we understand the work we adjust our view of the work to reflect what it takes to do the job
  4. This is really a question of granularity. If the adjusted work is in small bits then yes, as the bits get larger we risk loosing rhythm and consistency.
  5. Our sprint plan should have nailed it. Changes during the sprint is a sign of sloppy planning.

breaking-work-into-granulairty-and-grooming

Comment: Changes to work forms an interesting tension.  At a fine grained detailed level it changes all the time. Each person’s individual to-dos often change to reflect their understanding of what it takes to get the job done. As the level of granularity increases to task then it is a change to the team’s plan. If the number of changes is significant and adds up to more than one story’s worth of work then you better stop and adjust your plan, usually you want the product owner in on that discussion. And if there are several new  stories that were  suddenly found and are so important they must be done right now, then call a stop and reset your entire sprint with a sprint planning session. Generally, the commitment by the team to the sprint should not change. Note: definition of team makes this an interesting discussion. Bottom Line: The goal here is to help the team get better at  expressing work they can do and following through on a commitment.

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2 Comments
  1. Gert Wallis permalink

    I like your analogy and Granularity perspective. The lean camp would argue that you can add work at anytime if the business requires it.

    The biggest threat is to team motivation. If you commmit and promise to deliver and you can’t because the work changes it can be demoralizing. Loss of rythm will also affect team cohesion. Because motivation and team commitment is one of the most difficult things to acquire there better be an exceptional business reason for doing it.

    Always a tough judgement call.

  2. Doug permalink

    I agree there should be a good reason for it and it better not be because you have a habit of yanking people around or it’s part of some fiefdom scheme you are trying to build.

    It is getting easier to say that fiscally irresponsible behavior would be to ruin team cohesion and therefore ruin organizational assets (teams that can solve complex problems and learn new things quickly). People who ruin or tear apart organizational assets should be fired. Wall Street certainly won’t want them.

    However, sometimes you have to change and change brutally fast. It can be painful.