Even more sprint wisdom

Joel Burton, Chris Calloway, Chris Ewing and Chris Rossi (with some remote assistance from Alex Clark and Matthew Wilkes) just wrapped up an insanely productive sprint focused on improving ZopeSkel, the code generator for Plone integrators and developers.   At the end of their in-depth write-up, they share some golden “lessons learned” about effective small-group sprinting.

The No-Fun ZopeSkel BBQ Sprint accomplished 23 major tasks in four days primarily by four sprinters.

We are very excited by the productivity and usefulness of the sprint and feel there are some lessons to impart:

  • Smaller sprints are by far more productive.
  • Ruthlessly focused sprints are more productive. Having super-clear goals and not wavering from them is key.
  • Excluding topics which don’t exactly fit goals is not a bad idea.
  • Design discussion and documentation ahead of the sprint make for a more productive sprint.
  • Inviting capable sprinters with strong motivations and undivided attention is abolutely necessary.
  • Bounties are not all they are cracked up to be. They take a lot of work. There may be easier ways to raise travel expenses.
  • A work environment geared towards serious concentration with no interruptions or distractions is extremenly helpful.
  • Starting as early as feasible each day and working for about ten hours is most productive.
  • A lunch break which involves walking to a location away from the work environment refreshes the afternoon’s work.
  • IRC, Twitter, UStream and other open communication channels are distractions while sprinting. Help yourselves before helping others outside the sprint while it is sprint-time. There will be time to help others after the sprint and a sprint which doesn’t produce helps nobody.
  • Sprint now, report out later. Blogging is another distraction while sprinting. Help the sprint first.
  • Photographing whiteboards is a nice security blanket which doesn’t take much time.
  • Have the network set up the day before. Don’t go wireless. Have a high speed switch on a fat pipe.
  • Have a couple of nice dinners in the middle of the sprint. Make lunch fun. Eat BBQ every day. Have BBQ on your pizza. People who have fun together work together better.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Don’t stay out all night.
  • Get the nicest possible accommodations. Private accommodations entirely taken over by the sprinters are best.
  • Do not fit three people in the front seat of a pick-up truck.

There’s a lot of clean-up work left over from this sprint. We could have used an extra day. It would have been wrong to cut short the work being completed on the final day in order to make a second ZopeSkel release in four days. Plus, some clean-up work depends on the outcome of discussions regarding the previously mentioned splitting proposal. Suffice to say, there will be at least a couple of people merging branches into trunk at the Plone Conference 2009 Sprint.

Previous posts about sprinting:

Sprint Wisdom

More Sprint Wisdom

2 thoughts on “Even more sprint wisdom”

  1. Ah, glad to see my spelling errors were cut and pasted intact. 🙂
    (Finally, got them fixed in the linked post.)
    Just want to comment on the description of ZopeSkel as “the code generator for Plone integrators and developers.” It has been heavily developer-centric, naturally, because it came from developers. The purpose of the sprint was to somewhat add a space in ZopeSkel for themers and integrators as well. Some of the sprinters were selected specifically because there were less developer-centric and had more experience with themers and integrators on the ground.
    I felt the need to list the lessons learned because this was the most insanely productive sprint I’ve ever seen or heard of. I had no idea going in that it was going to be like it was and thought it was going to be some kind of disaster. Keeping it small, focused, and selective were the three most important things.
    We called it the “No-Fun” sprint because we wanted to emphasize the sprint would be about work and results rather than about having a sprint vacation. But we managed to have a lot of fun because it is fun to see results. That and the BBQ.

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