“Can’t we rest for 1 Sprint?” Does that sound familiar? Unfortunately, many teams that have been working hard for a long time are asking this question or they at least think about it even if nobody wants to express it. The statement “I don’t think we should get jobs above capacity…” uttered by the coaches, Scrum Masters or some team members in the first Sprints that start with excitement and determination gets lost in the depths of the outer space. I think the most crucial question here is: “What is capacity?”
More often than not, team members take jobs as they think that they could “handle it”, assuming that they can use all the time that is left in that Sprint. For example, let’s say the speed of the team is average of 50 Story Points based on the previous Sprints, then comes this perfect dialogue:
+ Let’s take that many jobs in this Sprint.
– OK, but I’ll be on leave for 1 day.
+ I have 2 days of training.
– I’m in a study group, count me out for 1 day too.
+ Okay, let’s take a look at the jobs and we’ll take them accordingly.
They can’t because their perspective is different. The above dialogue is based on the man/hour approach. Is this a wrong approach? No. As long as everything is stable, the man/hour approach can be very consistent and logical. However, when you add the human factor into the complexity of the jobs, there is not such a stable environment. When so many extra jobs come out once you start to do one job, when everyone has different competencies and experiences, trying to calculate something over man/hour is nothing but a great optimism. It is assuming that nothing will change, everything will proceed according to the most ideal plan. Everybody wants to think that Ahmet has as much experience as Barış and that he can do the job at the same time; Duygu will never get sick; Umut completed a similar job in a very short time before, so now he can do the same again; but things do not work like that in real life.
This dialogue is actually the result of wanting to relate the effort of the job directly to the time out of habit. Is the time insignificant? Of course, it is one of the most important factors but only ONE OF THEM. Therefore, when using methods such as Poker Planning, T-Shirt Sizing; the factors such as the complexity, uncertainty, experience level, dependency of the job are also taken into consideration as well as time. So, “Team Speed” is not just time. That’s why we do not make plans that will use the Sprint time until the last second, but we make plans that leave a buffer time in line with the team’s capacity. Buffer is a term that is interpreted differently by everyone, but I think it is the time for jobs that cannot be foreseen. If it is something we know, we write it down and show it (see Transparency). If not, that job is doomed to disappear into the Buffer black hole before it can be seen. This is the starting point of the “Sprint Fatigue” concept. The part we call Buffer is the time period where you can read, breathe, and do things to improve yourself, as well as get the unforeseen jobs done. If you spend this time for jobs that are already seen clearly and planned to be done, it is natural that you say, “Can’t we rest for 1 Sprint?”
Agile Coach & Trainer