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Abnormal Termination of a Scrum Sprint | David Tzemach

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Termination of a Scrum sprint is not something you will see very often, but those rare occasions merit discussion.

Reasons to Terminate the Sprint

  • The team encounter obstacles that they cannot overcome.

  • Ad-hoc crises such as customer bugs that need an urgent solution.

  • A sprint goal that no longer makes sense.

  • Team members moved to other projects.

  • The team’s estimation was way off.

  • A significant technology change occurs, or a better technical solution is found that makes the current sprint’s activity obsolete.

  • Changes to prioritization that make the current sprint stories irrelevant.

Which Stakeholders Have the Power to Terminate the Sprint?

A sprint termination can come from different stakeholders: the first is the Product Owner responsible for team ROI, Example:

The Product Owner misunderstood the customer requirements and created stories based on an incorrect interpretation. Once the team starts to work, the Product Owner understands this mistake and decides to terminate the sprint, as those stories are irrelevant to the customer.

Another stakeholder that can terminate the sprint is the development team itself (scarce but can still happen) due to one of the following reasons:

  • They misjudged the time needed to complete high-priority stories.

  • An unforeseen event occurs in the middle of the sprint that does not allow the team to work on their stories.

  • They encounter significant risks or dependencies that block them from continuing their work.

There are some excellent reasons why the Product Owner is the only one that can terminate the sprint, but if the team takes power into their hands, they cannot just break the sprint without talking with the Product Owner and explaining their reasons. The Product Owner should always have the final decision on terminating a sprint.

The Process of Terminating the Sprint

The practice of terminating a sprint should follow these steps:

  1. Either the Scrum team or the Product Owner raises the flag that they cannot achieve the sprint goal, or it has changed significantly or has become obsolete.

  2. The team discusses and tries to overcome problems if they cannot find a solution, the Product Owner is informed.

  3. Once agreed to terminate the sprint, the PO ensures that all stakeholders related to the project have clear visibility into the termination and its reasons.

  4. The team will conduct an “Ad-Hoc” retrospective to understand if any corrective actions are required to prevent similar situations in future sprints.

  5. The Agile team and the Product Owner initiate a new Sprint Planning meeting.

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