Cancel Sprint

Strategies for handing the next sprint length after cancelling the current sprint

Though Cancelling the sprint isn’t a frequent situation. In Scrum framework it’s at the discretion of the Product Owner(PO) to cancel the sprint if PO realize that the sprint goal and plan isn’t adding value to the product.

In Scrum only PO has the authority to cancel sprint. After cancelling the sprint, product backlog is updated with latest priorities and value for the product, any work done during the sprint if valuable is reviewed and rest is thrashed or pushed back to product backlog and the next sprint starts immediately.

One the common questions is what happens to the sprint length after cancelling it? Here are two strategy I recommend based on my experience.

Let’s assume 10 working days sprint (2 week) as example.

Strategy 1: Retain the same sprint start and end dates

Cancel Sprint
The team is working with multiple other scrum teams and they are all in sync with the sprint length and need to maintain the same start and end dates for better forecasting and resolving inter-team dependencies.

Alternatively, if the number of days in the sprint is very small to event develop 1 product backlog item 100% then the team can plan for other activities during this period (such as backlog refinement, remove technical debt, learning / training on new technology, discussion with customers and field study, pairing with other teams or participating in organizational events and other as appropriate for the team & product owner)

Strategy 2: Retain the same sprint duration

cancel sprint
If there is only one team working on the product development and they don’t need to have any dependencies with other teams then they don’t need to have the start and end dates, such team can start new sprint with the same sprint length helps in better forecasting

While one strategy focuses on creating a cadence with same start and end dates, other focuses on establishing fixed duration. For the product development point of view both as equally applicable.

Share your experiences if there were any sprint cancellation by product owner and what decisions and strategies were taken for maximizing the ROI.

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