The Agile Tribe

Embracing change in iterations – does length matter?

on January 15, 2010

Author: Peter Mison

I’ve seen and been a part of a number of Agile projects now and I’ve seen many slightly different approaches and this is OK because Agile allows the team to recognise through a retrospective what we could do better. So we embrace change to continually improve the way we do things.

Recently I witnessed a change to the length of an iteration in one of our projects. Traditionally these projects have been running using a 4 week iteration cycle – coaches I can hear your already “4 weeks is just too long for an iteration”.

A 4 week iteration tends to feel somewhat relaxed at the beginning and frantic at the end (typically with team members having to work longer hours near the end). You will see this visually in the burndown chart where the tracking of progress tends to drift above and away from the target line throughout the iteration until near the end when all of a sudden the line tracks steeply back towards the target and hopefully lines up when the iteration completes.

In this case, the project team had many reservations about switching to a 2 week iteration from 4, having delivered this way for so long – the motivation to do so certainly did not come from within. Under heavy encouragement from the Agile coach the project gave 2 week iterations a go and the results have been positive and the project have now fully adopted this approach.

What did we see? Well, for starters the team was focused from the start through to the end of the iteration with a nice consistent burndown that tracked very well against the target line all the way through – it’s all about a consistent pace. One of the reservations that the team had before the change was that quality would go down with an increased number of defects. As it turns out the defect rate is very similar to the defect rate over a 4 week iteration.

With Agile, every team needs to work out what works best for them, be it through experimentation, coaching and external influence, BUT it is so important to recognise continuous improvement and to embrace change.

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