What should a new scrum team achieve in their first 4 weeks?

10 Apr 2023

Getting started with a scum team.

So, your first goal is to organize your team around value creation.

  • Do you have a designated product owner?
  • Do you have a cross-functional team with the skills to build something valuable?
  • Do you have a scrum master? Someone that will guide you through the scrum framework.

Why are these basics important? Because if you don’t have these elements in place, you aren’t a scrum team, and you aren’t going to extract the most value out of the scrum framework.

A team of developers without a scrum master and a product owner, is an agile team rather than a scrum team, and whilst Extreme Programming and other agile frameworks such as Kanban may be a great solution for you, you aren’t going to rock scrum effectively without the correct structure.

So, set yourself up for success by getting the necessary authorization to proceed with scrum, and ensure that you have a strong product owner and scrum master in place.

Launching your first sprint.

The scrum guide states that you don’t need anything more than a product goal to start your first sprint. This is where a lot of teams get tripped up; not knowing where to start or how to get going.

In my experience, it is helpful for the team to define the product goal and then work through how you are going to achieve a specific sprint goal that aligns with the product goal.

  • What needs doing?
  • Why do those work items matter?
  • How are you going to do the work?
  • What is the sprint goal?
  • How does that align with the product goal?

This is where a technique like user story mapping can be incredibly useful to build your initial product backlog, and then refining that backlog into smaller chunks of work so that you have a fighting chance of delivering a working, valuable product or feature at the end of your first sprint.

Creating a Definition of Done.

Before you launch into your sprint, I would recommend that you agree on a Definition of Done.

  • What criteria must be met for a work item to be considered complete?
  • What elements of the work item are essential to the customer and organization?
  • Are there any governance or compliance issues associated with the work item?
  • If different people are going to work on the item, what needs to happen before handover?

And so forth.

A definition of done is critically important to setting and maintaining a high standard of quality for the work you are going to be doing. It makes all the criteria for successful delivery of a product or feature transparent and visible to the team, the customer, and product stakeholders.

It also builds trust because people can see everything that is needed for a work item to be delivered to a customer. They can see that you have taken everything into account, and that nothing is being left to chance.

It is a powerful way to lead the team into effective product development and build momentum with each work item that is completed.

  • What does usable mean?
  • What does releasable mean?
  • What does valuable mean?

Answer these questions effectively through your definition of done and you are on the right track.

For more insight into a great definition of done, read these blogs:

Agree on a sprint length.

You’ve got the right people in place, you’ve populated your product backlog, and you’ve articulated your definition of done. Great. Now, you need to agree on how long your sprint is going to be.

Scrum defines a sprint as anywhere between one week and one month, so you have a range of options available to you. Most teams opt for a two-week sprint to get going and refine from there.

You may need more time to build a valuable, working product and decide to increase the sprint length to four weeks down the line, or you may find that getting a formal review and feedback from your customers every two weeks really helps inform what work is the most valuable to focus on.

Nothing is cast in stone, use the empirical process control pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation to inform what the optimal sprint length for your team, in your application, is.

I recommend that newbie scrum teams start with a one-week sprint.

The reason I recommend one-week sprints is because you’re just starting, you aren’t going to be great at execution, and you’re going to run into walls frequently. Scrum doesn’t solve problems, it reveals them, and so you want to learn as much as you can in your first month of scrum.

Your goal is to learn, inspect the data and feedback, and adapt based on what you have learned.

A one-week sprint gives you four sprints to learn from in your first four weeks and allows the team to build momentum by frequently discovering what causes problems, removing those impediments, and cracking on with product development that delivers value to customers.

Keeping it small and simple allows you to get work done, manage risk effectively, and grow your confidence with the scrum framework. Nothing lifts morale like delivering work to customers frequently and consistently.

Work that delights customers and allows the organization to shine.

Delivering valuable working products or features to your clients, every week for four weeks, will set you up for success and build the kind of momentum that inspires everyone in the team.

If you don’t deliver that much in a week, you aren’t losing significant ground or upsetting anyone, but you are learning how to play the game effectively and where you can improve.

So, in summary, your goal in the first four weeks is to get work done, learn how the scrum framework creates opportunities and reveals threats, and how to use data and feedback to improve with each sprint.

Embrace the journey, learn through the setbacks, and build momentum for your next four weeks.

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