Cancel 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.

Sprint Goal Cancel sprint

Don’t think of Sprint backlog as list of tasks… there are other ways of writing

Sprint goal

During sprint planning event, the scrum team set the sprint goal that forms the guidelines to focus on coherent functionality. 

A set of product backlog items that delivers a high value usable increment of the product is set as Sprint Goal. 

With the focus on sprint goal Development Team works towards delivering the product functionality that delivers value. In case the work identified turns out to be different than what was expected during the sprint planning, the Development Team & Product Owner collaborate and negotiate the scope of Sprint Backlog within the Sprint that focuses on sprint goal. 

When does Product Owner Cancel Sprint

Product Owner can cancel sprint if the sprint goal becomes obsolete during the sprint. 

  • Company’s vision is changed
  • Product strategy is changed
  • Company’s business strategy is changed
  • Market conditions are changed
  • Technology changes
  • Customer needs are changed
  • Product owner realize the value of the identified goal is obsolete

When Product Owner cancel Sprint, all the work done until that moment is evaluated and remaining work items are pushed to product backlog for further analysis. The time, efforts and at times work done might be considered waste and Product Owner takes the accountability of any such business impacts. 

Cancel Sprint

A Sprint can be cancelled before the Sprint duration ends.

After Product Owner Cancel Sprint

One the common questions is what happens to the sprint length after cancelling it? Here are two strategy. Let’s assume 10 working days sprint (2 week) as example.

Strategy 1: Retain the same sprint start and end dates

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)


Cancel Sprint

Strategy 2: Retain the same sprint duration

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

When Product Owner Cancel Sprint

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.

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Naveen Nanjundappa, Certified Scrum Trainer

12 Principles Consulting Naveen NanjundappaWell known for his unique teaching style, Mr. Naveen Nanjundappa has over 19 years of service in IT industry, with experience in most of the standard roles of software development life cycle such as developer, tester, leader, manager of projects and products. He was introduced to XP & Scrum in 2005. Following his passion for coaching, he has spent last 8 years coaching agile transformation, Scrum teams, trained over 4000+ people from various organizations. Expertise in Scrum, Leadership Agility, Organizational Agility, Process Agility, Team Agility, Product Management & Project Management.

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