Pacing Sprints

Pacing Sprints

Do you know the difference between a steady pace and a death march? If you've ever trained for any kind of endurance event, you probably do. In 1998, I trained for my first (and only) marathon. I failed to finish that marathon, but learned a lot that helps me in my work today as a project manager for the United Nations. In this session you will learn how I apply the principles of exercise progressions to successfully pace teams in agile sprints.

By the end of this session you will be able to:

define and map progression, which includes building strength, rest weeks and tapering
adjust a sprint plan to account for atypical weeks and multi-part problems
identify and mitigate individual and team habits that indicate boredom and burnout
adapt your sprint plan when unexpected emergencies arise
By implementing the ideas in this session, your teams will experience higher engagement, improved performance and an overall boost in morale and confidence. There will be time at the end for discussion around how to introduce these concepts for the personalities you work with.



  1. PACING SPRINTS @emmajanehw

  2. Difficulty of Task (amount of new knowledge required) easier tasks

    Time easier tasks taper as you get ready for public launch INCORPORATING LEARNING INTO SPRINT PLANNING
  3. SPRINTING LIKE A DISTANCE RUNNER. 1. Define scope. 2. Plan

    (and pace) sprints. 3. Maintain focus and motivation.
  4. DEFINING THE SCOPE OF WORK What are we going to

  5. REWARDS & RISKS Allows you to identify and name project

    gremlins. Allows you to get a read on how / when stakeholders want to be involved in the project. Allows you to start the idea of a “won’t build” list. Define Scope Can cause tensions if stakeholder thinks you’re trying to avoid work with the “won’t build” list.
  6. Source: More: Book: User Story Mapping (

  7. None

    Map. • Project Approach Document. • Epics / Backlog • The “Won’t Build” List.
  9. PLAN THE SPRINTS; SPRINT THE PLAN. When are we going

    to do it?
  10. REWARDS & RISKS Allows team to understand the scaffolding they

    should put in place for features they’ll build. Place “hard” tasks when team is likely to be most engaged (e.g., consider holidays). Build in capacity for iteration; plan to replace elements with increasingly more complex code. Plan your project If your plan is too rigid, you start getting into waterfall-style promises.
  11. A PROJECT IS A MARATHON Pace sprints to be increasingly

    difficult with periodic rest weeks.
  12. MITIGATE THE LEARNING CURVE • Plan and review:
 technical review

    board. • Allow fluid scheduling:
 Kanban-style pull, not deadline-style Scrum. • Share learning often:
 demo -> Q&A.
  13. Difficulty of Task (amount of new knowledge required) easier tasks

    Time easier tasks taper as you get ready for public launch INCORPORATING LEARNING INTO SPRINT PLANNING

  15. MAINTAINING MOMENTUM Are we almost there yet?

  16. REWARDS & RISKS Getting to know your stakeholders means you

    can mitigate their impact on the developers. Getting to know your developers allows you to pace the project with more grace. Know your team Seeing today’s capacity might make you hesitant to push the team to do better tomorrow. It’s time consuming,
 and if you stop it will be noticed.
  17. None

  19. MOTIVATE • Ask the team what motivates them. • Give

    choice. • Have high standards
 which allow for creative solutions. • Celebrate wins.
  20. RESOURCES Managing Change A Developer’s Primer To Managing Developers Things I Learned From Managing My First Project