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What is an antipattern? – An idea which seems good but has more negatives than positives. Click here to read the definition of Anti-Pattern.

Why do people feel that Sprint Zero seems a good idea

When the team start work the team observes these typical problems

  • There is no reasonable Product Backlog from which a Sprint Backlog can be created.
  • Designs are not good enough to start
  • Architecture decisions are often delayed

Team often struggles to create a usable product increment during the first Sprint. Often then, the teams starts with a Sprint Zero so that a usable product increment may not be expected from the team.

At the outset, it looks to be a great idea – especially those who have come from a waterfall mindset and are used to doing a lot of preparation before beginning a project.

Negative consequences of Sprint Zero

Sprint Zero is often considered an agile-sounding term for pre-Sprint preparation work where no increment of product value is provided at all. In reality, the whole intent of the Sprint is lost. To be a Sprint, something of value must be delivered in a clearly time-boxed fashion.

What could be done instead of Sprint Zero

  • In Agile, we believe in just-in-time work. However, in reality this may increase the risk. Hence we should start thinking about the work (which includes designs, architectures, refinement of PB) 2-3 sprints in advance. Not too early, and not too late.
  • Weak product management results in this anti-pattern. Agile does not mean that we don’t have planning. There is a lot of planning in agile. However, the planning is done such that the team has enough work for the next 2-3 sprints. Not having decisions ready, not having a product backlog ready often causes the team to resort to this type of anti-pattern.
  • Critical Architecture decisions, critical design decisions, critical business decisions need to be identified. They may become show-stoppers later and the team may not have enough work for the next sprint.