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Why is Timeboxing the secret weapon of success for Scrum Masters?

  • Scrum
Created on :
March 15, 2017
Saket Bansal
Updated on :
October 6, 2022

Scrum recommends teams to follow timeboxed iterations to software development also known a sprint. Everything within the Sprint has an allocated time, and you are expected to deliver things within this timeframe. Participants in our Certified Scrum Master Training keep asking for specific advantage of Timeboxing, with this blog, I would like to discuss timeboxing in detail

The major difference between a traditional project management and scrum is the way they approach time. Traditional project teams follow a predictive lifecycle where everything is planned in advance, the scope is defined, the team would work on completing the scope, the time is variable and can be expanded to complete the scope of work. Scrum approach is reverse, time is fixed, and team would calculate what can be delivered in a given timebox. Scrum is a series of such timeboxed deliveries known a Sprint.

difference between a traditional project management and scrum

Advantages of Timeboxing

Enforce Prioritization

Timeboxing creates a sense of urgency. The simple question would be what could be delivered in a limited time, the priority items would take over. This results in prioritization and development of critical features early in project life cycle.

Increase focus

Timeboxing improves focus which results in increase in productivity. Remember the good old days when the actual study would start the day exam dates are published?

Realization of Time

Timeboxing helps in team and stakeholders with realization of time in hand and time spent.

Enforce Transparenc

Because priority is renegotiated at the end of every sprint, every deliverable is checked against the definition of done at the end of the timebox. The team and stakeholders would have a chance to do an objective review of deliverable. It brings transparency in the team. Contrast this with good old days when development teams would keep postponing the product demo for weeks since all work hasn’t been finished.

Creates Development Rhythm

Following fixed timebox in development creates a rhythm , it also helps in collecting metrics on consistent intervals for example we calculate the velocity of the team every timebox (Sprint) . Metrics can be used for planning and also as an input to retrospective meeting for improvements.

Opportunity to start fresh

Timebox sprint helps team in rejuvenating , its time to start a fresh sprint, its time to take learning in account from last sprint and plan things again for new sprint. Its give rhythm for starting something again with more clarity and focus,

Disadvantages of Timeboxing

Add overheads

Since we fix the time and everything has to finish inside it, it adds overhead of starting and finishing related activities every iterations.

May force creation of small work items sometime unnaturally

Many time you may struggle to split the work items in small units and still adding value to the product and customer. This may sometime result in making small work items which could have managed better if they left big.

Disrupts the flow

Timeboxing sometime may look like as an disruption in flow, say you are working on something and you know you need 3 more days to finish, but if timebox is over you need to finish the work and start again in next timebox.

Rush to finishing

Since timeboxing makes the time and work items quite visible to stakeholders some team endup rushing to finish because of timeboxing and they use many shortcuts to achieve the sprint goals in a timebox.

In my experience most of the time I found more advantages of timeboxing than its disadvantages. What about you? what is your experience with timeboxing?