Da Mystery of Timeboxin’

Every Scrum Event is rigidly timeboxed. This is a fundamental part of how Scrum functions, and shows respect for everyone’s time. Review the Scrum Values if you want a reminder of how Respect plays an important role in Scrum.

The Scrum events are timeboxed as follows:

  • Sprint – up to 4 weeks. The Sprint ends exactly on time and the new Sprint starts immediately. There is literally no gap between Sprints.
  • Daily Scrum – exactly 15 minutes, no matter how long your Sprints are, or how large your team is.
  • Sprint Planning – 8 hours for a one month Sprint, less for a shorter Sprint (i.e., 4 hours for a two week Sprint, 2 hours for a one week Sprint).
  • Sprint Review – 4 hours for a one month Sprint. 2 hours for a two week Sprint, or one hour for a one week Sprint.
  • Sprint Retrospective – 3 hours for a one month Sprint. 1.5 hours for a two week Sprint, or 45 minutes for a one week Sprint.

The idea behind timeboxing is that no matter what else is going on, the Scrum events have an absolute hard cap on their length. If we as a team fail to get everything done during that time, we have to figure out a way to make it happen. The burden is on us to stay within the timebox. The Scrum Master’s job is to help coach the team on how to get there and how to make the best possible use of that rigidly limited time. It should go without saying that we don’t have to use every minute of the timebox (except for the Sprint itself). If we are done early, let everyone get back to what they were doing! Never extend an event artificially just because you still have time allotted.

We talk about the 16th minute a lot when it comes to the Daily Scrum, but the truth is that there is no such thing. Certain people might hang back to continue a discussion that was started during the Daily Scrum, but the event itself is over the moment we reach our 15 minute timebox. There are no exceptions to this rule.

In addition to the Scrum Events, backlog refinement is allowed to take up to 10% of the Sprint. It’s understood that much of this time is the Product Owner likely working on her own to get PBIs ready for the team to review, but it is entirely conceivable that the entire 10% could be used with the entire team; decomposing and estimating stories that are nearing the top of the Product Backlog. That 10% works out to 16 hours for a one month Sprint, or 8 hours for a two week Sprint. Not a second more.

Timeboxes are important, and we need to work as a team to make sure we respect them. Allowing Scrum events to run over their allotted time is a sure sign that your team needs help. Show respect for both the process and your team members and learn to stick to the timeboxes. Everyone will be happier for it!

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About Heath

Scrum Master. Software Engineer. Writer. Musician. Craft Beer Aficionado. Jeopardy! contestant. Not necessarily in that order.