What is the Right Iteration Length?
The Agile Zone is brought to you in partnership with JetBrains. Learn how Agile Boards in YouTrack are designed to help teams plan, visualize and manage their work in an efficient manner, with support for both Scrum and Kanban processes.
For some reason, most projects I’ve seen with little experience in iterative development prefer three week iterations. Personally, I prefer two week iterations. Here is the breakdown:
- Three week iterations: After three months, you’ve spent about 7% of your time on iteration meetings. You’ve had 4 opportunities to improve.
- Two week iterations: After three months, you’ve spent about 10% of your time on iteration meetings. You’ve had 6 opportunities to improve.
- One week iterations: After three months, you’ve spent about 20% of your time on iteration meetings. You’ve had 12 opportunities to improve.
Going from 93% to 90% efficiency for a 50% increase in learning seems like a good deal. Going from 90% to 80% efficiency for a 100% increase in learning, not so much.
These numbers are of course greatly simplified. You might also consider:
- With shorter iterations, the planning time may go down. But this takes practice – it doesn’t happen automatically.
- With very short iterations, you may not have experienced enough to learn much from the retrospective. However, if you find that you do a timeline, and most of the things people remember happened the last week, it may not be because that’s the only time something significant happened.
- You may consider different frequencies for different ceremonies. For example, on my current project we want to have demos with our power users. But they have to travel far to visit us. So we only have a full demo every other four weeks. We plan every two weeks and have an internal review and retrospective every two weeks.
What’s the right iteration length for your project?