What is a Sprint in Project Management: Complete Guide

scrum cheat sheet

Scrum is an Agile framework designed to help project teams work together more effectively. It encourages strong team collaboration and reflection so that they continuously improve their process. 

Although it is used mostly by software development teams, the principles of Scrum are now applied to all kinds of teamwork in multiple industries. As a framework for project management, Scrum is a system of roles, artifacts, and rules that work together to help teams organize and manage their work.

It is quite common for teams to want to implement Scrum, while management wants to stick with the more traditional waterfall methodology. When this is the case, how should teams move forward? 

This article explains what a Sprint is, how it works in the context of Scrum, and what it means to run a Sprint in the context of project management. It also covers how to successfully incorporate Sprints into more traditional project management practices, to show how both can be combined using a project management software like Teamhood. 

What is a Sprint in project management?

A Sprint is a crucial part of a Scrum, making it a cornerstone of Agile project management practice. 

In Scrum, a Sprint is a time-boxed period during which a team works on a specific set of objectives, benchmarks, or outputs. Another word for Sprints is “iterations”. In other words, they are a way of breaking up projects into smaller, manageable chunks of work which helps teams to build products faster and at a higher quality. 

What is Sprint planning?

At the start of a Sprint, the production team holds a special meeting called Sprint Planning. Sprint Planning kickstarts the Sprint by outlaying what work the team will complete during the Sprint. The Scrum team uses the meeting to discuss the current items, define the backlog to be worked on and map out how they are going to prioritize that backlog during the Sprint.  

Why is Sprint planning important?

Sprint planning is important because without it your development team does not know what they will work on during the Sprint, how they plan to achieve that goal, or who within the team is responsible for which tasks. The benefits of Sprint planning include:

  • A more focused approach to the Sprint
  • Improved team morale and motivation
  • Better quality product
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Adaptability

What happens during the Sprint?

The stages of a Sprint are as follows:

  • Sprint planning. As discussed, this is when the development team and the owner of the product lay out the next sprint in detail. They select the product backlog items to be executed throughout the Sprint. 
  • The daily standup. A daily meeting – not more than 15 minutes in duration – that takes place at the same time and place each day. The Scrum Master leads the meeting and is there to check in on the individual and team progress, highlight successes, and uncover potential roadblocks that need to be removed.  
  • The Sprint Review. Once each Sprint is finished, the team gathers for a Sprint Review meeting. The team presents the successful product to the Product Owner and the key stakeholders, and the Product Owner ensures that all the criteria from the Sprint backlog have been met. Any incomplete tasks go back to the Product Backlog and will be taken care of by the team in the next Sprint. 

The Dos and Don’ts of Sprint

Do:

  • Develop a well-defined backlog where all dependencies and priorities are in order. 
  • Ensure that your team understands the Sprint goal and how it’s going to be measured. This will help keep your team members aligned.
  • Avoid including work where you cannot get the dependencies done. This could include work from another team, for example. 
  • Pay attention to your Sprint velocity metric and ensure it also includes team meetings and sick leave or annual leave.
  • Use a project management tool to capture and track information about key decisions. This will help to boost transparency and keep the team motived and aligned. 

Don’t:

  • Add so many product backlog items that your team will struggle to complete within one Sprint. This is just setting up your team for failure and is bad for morale and productivity.
  • Forget to add enough time for QA processes and bug fixing.
  • Allow the work to be completed in the Sprint undefined or ambiguous. Your team needs to be clear on what they’re doing and how. 
  • Take on a large amount of high-risk or unknown work. You can leave work for the next Sprint, so don’t try to bite off more than your team can chew. 
  • Ignore feedback, insights, or concerns from your team members. Your team members’ insights are likely to be valuable, so don’t ignore them. 
  • Let your Agile Sprint become a mini-waterfall project. A mini-waterfall is when work ends up being phased. Team members work alone and don’t collaborate effectively. They end up packing their old habits into a shorter time frame, and back-loading all of the risk because validation of the work doesn’t start until near the end of the Sprint period – just as it would in waterfall. 

Can Sprints and the waterfall methodology go together?

At first glance, Sprint and waterfall should not work together. This is because waterfall is a phased, sequential methodology, whereas Agile is an iterative and flexible approach to project management. However, it is possible to use project management tools that satisfy the desires of development teams to use Agile principles, while also communicating overall project goals, costs, and timelines to senior managers.

Waterfall is a linear management approach that says the project should be executed in several stages that follow each other. Once one stage is over, the next one can begin, and so on. As such, this project management methodology is easy to understand and follow.

To map out these stages on a timeline and divide them into smaller tasks, most teams use a Gantt chart. This makes it easy to define dependencies between project stages, tasks, and see how the project schedule changes if something is late. This is how that might look using Teamhood Gantt chart software:

sprint in project management

Alternatively, in Teamhood you will also be able to use a timeline view – a high-level view of projects that’s useful for resource planning where you can compare several projects and see the dependencies between them. Here’s an example of that in Teamhood:

sprint in project management

When it comes to team members, they can adopt the Sprint approach to their work by using Scrum boards and Agile metrics. Here is an example of how they could do that for the same project as highlighted in the Gantt chart and timeline examples above:

Scrum board

Conclusion and next steps

When you use a project management software solution that combines tools useful for the waterfall methodology and those that are useful for Agile approaches, then you can manage and communicate projects to suit the needs of different audiences. 

However, some of the ideas we have discussed in this article can be complicated for first-time readers, or for those who are inexperienced with the differences between the different project management methodologies and tools. 

Here is an article specifically discussing the different project management methodologies:

10 Best Project Management Techniques and Tools in 2022[DS1] 

Meanwhile, to expand your knowledge of project management options and resources, why not check out our expanding library of project management resources

Lastly, if you’d like to explore how Teamhood’s solution can help with your organization’s project management challenges, why not try a risk-free free trial? You get to try the software in minutes, with no credit card details needed and no strings attached.

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2020 - Present Marketing specialist at Teamhood.
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