On Tailoring Scrum Using a Reserved Sprint

I hear people say, “Yes, we use Scrum in a way that suits our needs.”

When I ask them what does that mean, the most popular answer comes out to be, “We have tailored Scrum to match the way we work.”

“How have you tailored it?” often, I follow up with this question and it goes something like this:

“Generally, we keep four week sprints but sometimes our team completes the work 3-4 days early. So to get the maximum work done from the team, we keep several predefined backlog items in a separate sprint and call it Reserved Sprint. So when we run out of backlog items in the main sprint, our team starts working on the backlog items of the reserved sprint.”

Observe the problem with this innocent looking concept of Reserved Sprint: you think that it is a good thing for keeping the team busy but it conveys something else.

It conveys that your project is not progressing well.

Now, don’t get surprised when you hear this!

I’ll give you its reasoning but first let me ask you this question: Having a concept of Reserved Sprint sounds like a plan?


That’s the point. See what the Agile Manifesto says about following a plan.

If you intend to feel relaxed because of a planned activity, you’re hiding from responding to change. That means you’re not doing correct form of Agile.

Concept of Reserve Sprint keeps the team away from doing the most important work. The rationale behind putting some tasks in so called reserve sprint implies that those tasks are of less value. If those tasks were of high value then it would have been planned in the regular sprints.

Instead, inspect and adapt. Work as a team to discover high priority backlog items and start working on it. Great Scrum teams provide value that way.

Scrum is not the rocket science. It could be as simple as looking at Agile Manifesto in this case.

Don’t tailor Scrum. Instead, tailor the software that you produce using Scrum. When in doubt, go back to the basics.

ScrumMaster Dos and Don’ts

A ScrumMaster should not:

  1. Own the product decisions on Product Owner’s behalf
  2. Make estimates on team’s behalf
  3. Make the technology decisions on team’s behalf
  4. Assign the tasks to the team members
  5. Try to manage the team

One of the ScrumMaster’s prime focus should be to facilitate self-organization. Here’s how he should deal with above situations:

  1. Facilitate the product owner to maintain and prioritize the Product Backlog and own the business decisions
  2. Help the team members to come up with most realistic estimations they can
  3. Help the team members to make right technology decision
  4. Inspire the team members to pull and own the tasks and work with them to remove any impediments that are holding them back to achieve those tasks
  5. Facilitate self-organization within the team

Someone who’s does not have good facilitation skills should not be selected as team’s ScrumMaster no matter what certifications or credentials she has.