The Concept and Execution of Sprint Zero

Agile, specifically Scrum, continues to gain recognition as an effective way to drive forward product quality in an efficient manner.  Organizations large and small continue to explore ways to implement Agile. When you do go through Agile transformation, start a new project, and/or start a new team, starting at Sprint zero is a sound decision. Today, we examine this Sprint to detail how it fits into the Agile puzzle to improve the effectiveness of implementation and execution.

The Concept and Execution of Sprint Zero

When Sprint Zero Takes Place

Sprint zero usually takes place before the formal start of the project and/or at a team's inception.  The goal of the Sprint is for the Development Team to come together to develop a minimal number of User Stories, project skeleton, story mapping, and develop a workable product. This Sprint should be kept lightweight and relatively high level. It is all about the origination of project exploration and gaining an understanding of where you want to head while keeping velocity low.

Goals of Sprint Zero

The purpose of this Sprint, like any other Sprint, is to be as productive as possible.  It is not about intense software development, though. The Sprint should be a lightweight exercise.  By the end of this Sprint, the hope is you have done a prioritization exercise of features or a list of User Stories.  You may have a minimal environment set up to write your code, as well as a plan to develop the rest of the product once it is complete.

From a high-level, Sprint zero has the task of trying to get ready for the subsequent Sprints to begin. A team is much more effective when they have: a defined release plan in mind, knows where the code is going to live, and how to implement that code.

How to Achieve Sprint Zero Goals

The goal of this Sprint is to focus on completing the same activities as any other Sprint.  You want to work towards Agile Events, updating the backlog, taking part in the daily stand-ups, doing a retrospective, and delivering an end-product, whatever that may be in this type of set-up.  The expectation, in the end, is still to get to a minimum viable product or MVP.

Using The Sprint to Train

Sprint zero can also work to the benefit of the Development Team to get them familiar with Scrum.  Think of it as an opportunity for the team to get a Scrum crash course, to understand the various Agile events and where they each fit.  The team can also get a rhythm, go through their forming, storming, norming, and performing phases early-on. The time can also get used to distribute the product mission and vision statement.

Impact on the Remaining Sprints

The effect on the remaining Sprints, once the team gets going, becomes evident after this initial Sprint. The effect is that the team has a better understanding of how the Sprints will execute.  You have the framework and process in place. You get a feel for how you will interact during the various Agile Events and how to improve upon them going forward. Sprint zero should establish a solid foundation for the Scrum team to succeed.

By the end of Sprint zero, the team will have a much better understanding of the future Sprints.  They will be more able to execute, drive forward value, and quality.