One Story Per “Sprint”

John Cutler
Jan 5, 2018 · 2 min read

Delivering a “potentially releasable increment” after N days is not “hard”. It is not rocket science. (Almost) any team can do it.

Now, there are a bunch of things that make this feel hard: variability, impediments, dependencies, constraints, “people issues”, “expectations”, making it “meaningful”, lack of access to the customer, absent product managers, mushy requirements, silos, etc.

But it isn’t inherently “hard”. It’s annoying (and probably counterintuitive), but those things — the things that feel hard — are addressable. Especially if you cut scope.

Can you get ONE story done in two weeks? It can be one, tiny, valuable thing.

Are you kidding! Sure! But…

OK. It isn’t hard. You can have a “successful” sprint every sprint.

But we’ll never get the project done that way! People will be idle. The business will think we’re kidding. They’ll think we’re slacking because we’ll be sitting around all sprint. Some team members will have nothing to do! Our velocity will drop to ZERO (plus one story). The output will be laughable.

What if all of that was OK? You need to start somewhere, right?

Totally infeasible. No one will go for it.

Sounds like you’ve discovered what is hard. What is “hard” is trying to create the semblance of productivity and looking busy. And dealing with the “legacy” way of working.

Awe come on! Our manager will think we aren’t trying. One story! We sometimes get five done in a sprint. OK. Sometimes we don’t, but sometimes we do. One story would be insane! Goals aren’t helpful unless you fail sometimes…. right?

How often do you have a potentially releasable increment?

I don’t know … 50% of the time? 40% of the time? It is not for lack of trying. We’re all trying super hard … doing our part, etc.

That doesn’t sound very reliable. What would it take to make that 80%? 90?

That’s hilarious. One story?

Worth a try. Maybe you can do it in a week 90% of the time? Three days? Start there.

John Cutler

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Multiple hat-wearer. Prod dev nut. I love wrangling complex problems and answering the why with qual/quant data. @johncutlefish on Twitter.