Hey ScrumMasters, how do you set the length of your team’s Sprint? Admittedly, it’s a little bit of a trick question…

Sprint length isn’t set by you – Sprint length is determined by the Scrum Team, including the developers, the Product Owner (CSPO), and you, the ScrumMaster. The entire Scrum Team determines the Sprint length, because they’re the only ones who can determine what works best for them. If a team wants to experiment with different Sprint lengths to see what suits them (and the project) best, that’s perfectly fine.

So, how does a Scrum Team choose the length of their Sprint? One metric that can be used by the team to help them decide their Sprint length is something called Product Backlog Volatility, which is the frequency with which the Product Backlog changes. If you’ve got a Product Backlog that doesn’t change very often, as is common with products that are several years old, you’re likely just keeping it up to date and have a good handle on it, your Product Backlog Volatility is low. Some teams prefer to have longer Sprints when their Product Backlog volatility is low (but it’s certainly not required). Alternatively, if you’re working on a new product or you’re working with new technology or a set of new requirements and things are changing fast, then you probably have quite a bit more Product Backlog volatility, and in these cases, you would ideally want to run the shortest Sprint that your team is capable of running. Either way, it’s still a team decision and not the ScrumMaster’s decision.

There are some things to watch out for that can help your team determine if your Sprints are too short or too long. For example, if the team is losing focus, it could be caused by Sprints that are too long. The team feels like they have plenty of time to get the work done, and Parkinson’s Law can come into play, meaning the work will expand the time allotted for its completion. Similarly, if the team is in a panic from the minute Sprint Planning ends til the minute Sprint Review begins, then the Sprint’s probably too short. A team that’s stressed out and rushing around is not optimal Scrum Productivity, so look out for this.

If your team is simply not sure where to start, then start with a 2-week Sprint and make adjustments from there by paying attention to, and looking out for, to the things I’ve mentioned in this #AskArtisan video. Good luck!

Be sure to check out more of our #AskArtisan video series!