Updated: Jun 25, 2019
Sprints are the first part of the Execution phase of of the Business Operating Support System or BOSS, a five phase agile operations system for growth companies. But before we dive into what, exactly, Sprints are and how it can aid the development your startup’s operations, let’s briefly review BOSS. BOSS is an agile operating system that incorporates ideas and best practices from the most effective methodologies in business, software and manufacturing. BOSS creates efficiencies through a structured approach with five phases that set the Vision (or North Star), Strategy, Execution, Standardization and Business Improvement Processes needed to achieve alignment on company objectives, goals and measurable results utilizing leading and lagging KPIs. A Sprint, unlike that thing you did in junior high gym class, is a period of time between 1 week and 3 months, averaging 30 days, during which a set number of objectives and key results are to be completed. Sprints form the core of the sprint agile methodology of business operations and can be thought of as an event which wraps all other product planning events together like daily scrums and burn downs. Sprints are determined by functional teams, and give the responsible parties the necessary time to complete a given task with the accountable person overseeing the activities.
According to the creators of the sprint methodology, the key element is the fixed time-frame. At the outset of a sprint, goals are set which are then tackled by the team as well as reviewed along the way. If a review finds deviations from the primary objective, adjustments are made. At its core, sprint employs transparency, inspection and adaptation as its basic values. Transparency ensures all the stakeholders have a common understanding of what is considered "done". Inspection and Adaptation help control any deviations so that at the end of the sprint, the best possible outcome is delivered.
A sprint is made up of several elements including a sprint planning meeting, product owner, the development team, a sprint backlog and the daily scrum. A sprint planning meeting, lasting around four hours, brings team members together to discuss and agree upon work to be completed during the sprint. Tasks are selected to be completed within the sprint timeframe, a sprint backlog (see below) is created to identify the work required to complete the tasks.
The product owner is the representative of the product's stakeholders and is the voice of the customer. He or she is primarily responsible for the backlog (see below) and insuring the team delivers on objectives. To move the sprint along, the product owner defines the product in customer-centric terms, usually user stories, adds them to the project backlog, and prioritizes them based on importance.
The development team is cross functional and responsible for acting upon the objectives and key results of the project, or MOKM. Individual members may have specialized skills and areas of focus, but accountability belongs to the development team as a whole.
A sprint backlog is a list of tasks or key results defined by the development team to be completed during the sprint and highlights all the work the development team has identified as necessary to meet the sprint objectives and key results. To ensure continuous improvement, it includes at least one high priority key result noted during the previous daily scrum.
The daily scrum, not that thing they do in rugby, is a daily meeting at a fixed time and a fixed place which enables the development team to bring each other up to date and plan work for the next 24 hours based on the amount of work done since the last daily scrum. These meetings usually take place in the morning and set up the team for successful distribution of daily email update.
Wrapping up, a sprint is an extremely important part of the product development process since missed dates can impact time to revenue and cause internal conflict. By agreeing upon a set of tasks and a timeline to complete those tasks, employees and team members are always made aware of expectations and, thus, are set up for success.
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