Nosprints, Noestimations – Is this the new Scrum or Scrumban?

Vidas Vasiliauskas ·

2019 - Present Co-founder and CEO @ Teamhood. 2015-2019 Head of software engineering department at Danske Bank. 2017-2018 Partner Associate Professor at Vilnius University. Lecturer of Software Architecture course 2011 - 2015 Managed numerous smaller IT teams at Prewise. Co-founder of RaveIT, Eylean, No Brakes Games Certified Agile product owner and practitioner. Managed large scale enterprise projects as well as launch of small startup products. MSc of Software Engineering at Vilnius University. Hobbies: Racing, MTB cycling, Windsurfing

scrum cycle

As controversial as it might sound, popular trends of skipping wasteful practices such as #nosprints and #noestimations are focusing on value output in Scrum. Which starts to be more and more Lean’ish. And when it comes to Lean process organization, Kanban is the king. If you are not experienced in Kanban practical application we suggest reading about the differences between Kanban Board and Kanban System and then resuming this article. If you are not familiar with Scrumban’s idea, read more about scrumban here.

What is nosprints and why is it gaining popularity?

Two schools of thought.

“Scrum is too complicated” school, which tries to blame their failed efforts on scrum. And “scrum needs improvement”, because this school has thorough experience and understanding of Agile values. These schools are contributing to the idea of nosprints. Sprints are short increments towards a bigger goal.

If a team can perform product increments without timeboxing them – they can consider ditching sprints because they might be bringing wasteful activities. This means switching to on-demand-planning, on-demand-retrospective and similar events instead of traditional Scrum events.

Think twice, prepare thrice

Increments without timeboxing/committed events do require upfront preparation and a thorough understanding of how your team can achieve small value increments without sprints. It can be as simple as “pick the most important thing, work on it, finish it, move on to the next most important thing”. Or it can require some alignment between stakeholders if there are already some expectations/work culture established. Kanban is the optimal choice here as it focuses on the flow and cutting cycle time for value delivery. For inspiration on Kanban process organization, check these Kanban board examples.

What is noestimations and how can scrum teams skip estimating?

Ron Jeffries claimed that “story points were invented to obfuscate duration so that certain managers would not pressure the team”. Story point estimations were supposed to be a team tool. The idea was not to manage customer expectations or measure velocity. Many argue that estimating work items is a waste. People still provide guesstimates instead of tangible and repeatable units. This can be more true than false, yet we cannot fully agree.

Wait, estimations are still valuable?

If your team is experienced and uses estimations internally to plan capacity – the technique is still sound/valuable. Just take into account what is written above and try to avoid exposing your estimates outside of team boundaries.

If your team decides to skip estimations after all, you need to work out the best practices on how to elect sprint goals, how to define MVP to goal as a solution, and how to effectively control your work scope.

nosprints noestimations

Are we finally in Scrumban territory?

Scrumban is a vaguely formed approach if compared to Scrum or Kanban. This is purely due to its nature as a mix. Some might argue that one practice or other practices should be taken out. Maybe it is the beauty of Scrumban – mix it up yourself. Nonetheless, if we remove sprints and estimations from Scrum, we are very close to Scrumban’s ideas.

A step towards Scrumban

One just needs to define events/practices and responsibilities to ensure the process is mature and followed. On top of everything, the biggest change driver will be the core of agility – retrospectives aka continuous improvement. We want to stay aside from suggesting which methodology is the best. It is as always – the tool should fit the purpose. You can compare different approaches in this scrum vs kanban vs scrumban guide. Removing waste from your process should also be driven organically, hopefully during retrospectives.

Nosprints and noestimates is a valid idea. It can bring good things. But it is not for everyone. Act wisely.

Learn about Scrumban via Cheat Sheet

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Scrumban Cheat Sheet

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