Project Management

Sprintus Interruptus

Bart has been in ecommerce for over 20 years, and can't imagine a better job to have. He is interested in all things agile, or anything new to learn.

Agile approaches are meant to maximize flexibility, while minimizing costly disruption to projects. In practice, they typically accomplish the former better than the latter. Here are six strategies to help teams manage interruptions and mid-sprint changes. Finding the right balance among them is the key to success.

In an ideal world, the ideal Agile team has a strong Product Owner, a fully groomed backlog, and is successfully resistant to interruptions and mid-sprint changes. In this world, we more often experience a different kind of environment, and the notion of an uninterrupted sprint is a mere fantasy. We live in an interrupt-driven world, one that is unlikely to change (unless that change is to get interrupted more often.) But that doesn’t mean we should give up on using Agile to cope with that reality.

Indeed, teams have several mechanisms to deal with mid-sprint disruptions. These run the gamut from aborting the sprint, to pre-planning for disruption, and strategies that fall between. Many of these have drawbacks in a self-fulfilling prophecy sort of way — if your planning admits that distractions to the current sprint are likely to happen (and are readily handled) then the more likely they are to occur. Even still, better to be ready with a plan for how to handle it, then to be caught unprepared.

Here is a short list of strategies that I have seen …


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"Stop that! It's silly."

- Graham Chapman, Monty Python's Flying Circus

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