Is there a Sprint 0?

Free Parking space on a Monopoly board

This is a common question.

Actually, it isn’t a common question at all in so far as people don’t often ask me if Sprint 0 is an actual rule.

No. Instead, it doesn’t take long with a group for me to work out if A) they have heard of Sprint 0, and B) that they genuinely believe it to be a rule.

The reason for my reference to the Free Parking space on a Monopoly board is that should the subject ever arise, I ask the group to each write down the rule for Free Parking. Typically, a number of them will say that the player who lands on Free Parking collects all of the fines from the middle of the board. This of course is a complete myth. There is no rule for Free Parking. Just as there is no rule for Sprint 0!

OK. So let’s be clear. There isn’t a Sprint 0.

Or rather, there isn’t a special sprint that occurs before the Scrum team actually start work building a product. According to the Scrum Guide, the Development team should produce “a potentially releasable Increment of “Done” product at the end of each Sprint“.

So if the team need some time to get them selves organised with some initial planning, setup of tools, training, etc. That’s fine. Just don’t call it a sprint.

There a a few reasons for this.

All sprints should be of equal length in order to help the Scrum team achieve a rhythm and cadence. Teams that set aside some time for their preparation and setup typically assign much longer than the typical sprint duration of 1 to 4 weeks.

Furthermore, teams that call their preparation and setup period a sprint, typically have other ‘special’ sprints such as Design sprint, UX sprint, Integration sprint, Hardening sprint, etc. None of these sprints exist in the rules of Scrum. They suggest that the Development team is incapable of producing a “Done” increment by the end of each sprint.

Just because the Scrum Guide doesn’t talk about an event before the sprints begin, that doesn’t mean that this cannot happen. The desire for a pre-project or foundations period is common among project managers.

There are a number of Agile project management frameworks that can help here. One common framework is DSDM – Dynamic Software Development Method. This framework describes a pre-project period comprising the Feasibility and Foundations stages. There is no reason that an organisation cannot combine a number of Agile frameworks such as DSDM and Scrum. The Agile project managers in the organisation can follow the rules provided by the DSDM framework or similar while the Scrum team (particularly the Development team) can use the Scrum framework. As long as all parties are applying the Agile principles.

In summary. By all means, spend some time before your sprints commence to get everything that you want to prepare prepared. Just don’t call that time a sprint! And certainly not Sprint 0!