Postponing the Sprint Start?

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March 29, 2022

Question:

Can a PO postpone the start of a Sprint?  Does the PO have the power to do that?

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Answers:

First, why would the PO want to do that?

It is important to keep the Team and others (esp the Business Stakeholders) on a regular, consistent rhythm.  Do not let them get used to a bunch of unnecessary change.  Also, the customers want the product yesterday.  You do not want to delay by even one day, if you can.

Next: The bad news does not get better with age. (My quote)  So, you do not want to add any delay to the learning.

You can’t make the meeting

If you can’t make the normal time, first you should try to anticipate this.  And adjust others things to make the normal time.

And if you need to, find someone you can play your PO role for one meeting.

You need time to get prepared

The PO has the responsibility, at least for enough stories, to get all the details pulled together that the Developers need to get those stories done.   In this way the PO sets the Team up for success.

This is related to the Definition of Ready and the DOR Process.

So, the PO needs time to get these stories prepared…by someone.

And sometimes you feel, “we just need one day ‘off’ to pull together these stories before we start the sprint.”  It is a common desire.

In Scrum we have this attitude: “The wheel still keeps turning.”

The PO must anticipate his or her own problems.  The PO should get some “minions” (my name for them) to help with the details of the stories.  Maybe more people some times and fewer people other times.  (Minions may include a BA, an SBA, a Manager, a Supervisor, a smart person, a SME, and others “who know stuff” — is the official term.  God forbid, maybe even customers.)

And the PO must review what the minions have put together.  The PO should agree with those details.

Reminder: Any good information already in the heads of the Developers does NOT need to be written down.  It is about real understanding, not about how much paper you have.

Thus, the PO must set aside time every sprint, and every week, to work on these details.  Not saying this is easy.  But this is part of the job.  So, on the details, you need to do a quality job in the time box.   If the right minions this week do not support you well, the quality will go down.  You have to fight that normal human tendency.

These issues are common important impediments for the Team.

Remember this: If your Team goes into a game (sprint) not well prepared, you should expect them not to score as well.  But, it is still useful to crank the handle of the sausage machine, and see what kind of sausage your Team produces.  That’ll be educational.  Maybe it will increase the motivation to improve the so-called “requirements” (the details).

Power

Does the PO have the power to delay the Sprint?

Hmm.  This “power” is not stated in the Scrum Guide.  Hence, I think I would say no.

More generally, Scrum is trying to diminish the role of power.  Power with knowledge workers is mostly not useful.  What is important is gathering as much knowledge as possible, learning, and then using the knowledge effectively as a Team (eg, converting it into product JIT).

Common Sense

Ken Schwaber frequently says: “The answers to most Scrum questions depend on common sense.  And common sense is very uncommon.”

Surely we have not covered all the possible scenarios.  But hopefully we have said enough so that you can resolve your own situation well enough, quickly enough.

Never say never.  But about postponing the start, my fear is if we agree once, then the pressure is to delay it more often, or the next to delay by 2 days.

Everyone needs to help balance the work in the time box, so that overall, the Team is having more success, one sprint at a time, as we move through iterative sprints.

 

Please share your thoughts.

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