Have you ever worked in an agile development team? Are you having difficulties with project iterations? Need an effective sprint naming solution that’s easily identifiable?
If the answer to one of the questions is YES, you need to keep reading.
Simply put, Sprint is the defined interval of time – usually two weeks – taken by a development team to finish a chunk of work or project. But, the thing is, iterations are ephemeral, transitory, temporarily impermanent, and short-lived... well, you get the idea.
Confusion is bound to happen when many departments work simultaneously, and projects have the same or similar sprint names.
That is why it’s significant to give it a name. It helps us to create a common ground between all stakeholders while allowing them to differentiate their work.
Besides this, working at GoRetro, we have seen thousands of sprint names. Where some scrum teams like to number their sprints, and others simply use integers: Sprint 1, Sprint 2, Sprint 3, and so on. In contrast, other teams use things like Sprint 1.1 and 1.2 to indicate the first and second sprints of the first release of a product. The second release would start over with Sprint 2.1.
Other teams date-stamp their sprint with an ending date, for instance, “guerrilla-team-31-august-2021”. This keeps the team aligned on the end date of the sprint cycle. Another version of sprint names we have seen is sprint goals oriented - using goal as a sprint name, for instance, ‘Billing integration sprint’ or the ‘User account sprint’.
One of the most creative things we have seen teams do is forgoing numbering, naming, or date-stamping their sprints, instead, they pick a random word/phrase as a name. The name could vary from movies, periodic table elements, superheroes, and even cat breeds - we've seen it all.
We know that the battle of sprint naming is as long as the battle for spaces versus tabs (go tabs!), so in this post, we will share each side’s arguments.
The Case For Ordinal Sprint Labels
A sprint is a container where Product Backlog items are temporarily stored for a brief duration. The Sprint may produce project artifacts, but the sprint itself contains value only as a time-box.
A sprint is a name the Scrum framework gives to a timed-boxed iteration. While each sprint has a defined sprint goal, the sprint itself is not a project artifact that needs historical records or process improvement.
The main purpose of using this is to mark a cycle and help us compare one cycle to another (velocity, completed story points, and so on). Giving sprints non-ordinal labels reduces the ease of communication and the amount of information conveyed by the name.
While the name of the sprint is rarely useful, the number of sprints in the current project plan or the team’s current progress along the plan’s ordinal axis does provide some utility. For example, a plan with 25 two-week sprints can be estimated to take 50 weeks. Likewise, a project with less than 30% of the remaining Product Backlog completed after consuming 50% of the planned iterations is quite likely to be out of tolerance.
We can’t perform this artmatic progress calculation with non-ordinal sprint names. Thus missing critical functions of monitor and communication.
Thus giving code names to sprints makes little sense as sprints don’t have any utility as a historical referent. And as highlighted, sprints are ephemeral, so trying to map them with ordinal names isn’t the best idea.
Sprints Aren’t Milestones
Certainly, every sprint has a goal and a set of items peeled off from the Product Backlog – neither of them is necessarily a project milestone. Who said sprint goals are distinctive every time, they aren’t always unique items, and stories are sometimes placed back onto the Product Backlog (modified or unmodified) for future sprints. Therefore, proving that Sprint’s goals aren’t actually unique.
For example, if your current sprint does not meet its Sprint Goal and the Product Owner decides to have another sprint with the same goal, would you name the sprints the same? If not, would “Sprint Boston” following “Sprint Dallas” really tell anyone anything useful about the sprint, the project, or the team?
The problem arises with the use of potential non-unique rows, which is solved by assigning auto-incrementing primary keys to each row. This is one reason that Scrum generally uses incremented integers rather than code names or handles for labeling sprints.
Inspect and adapt
At the heart of Scrum is the empirical process control theory that focuses on transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Many scrum teams call it “Inspect and adapt”. It refers to the way we handle results, failures, market and stakeholder input, and pretty much everything else.
As the project unfolds, sprint content is expected to change. The output of one sprint affects the content of subsequent sprints. Assigning meaningful code names to each sprint in advance would be counterproductive. This is because the goal or stories for the 5th sprint may change by the time the team gets the first 4 sprints out of the way.
Unless you are mapping sprint names onto a sequence anyway and know that Sprint Dallas was the 21st Sprint and that Sprint Boston is really the 25th, you can’t even convey ordinal or time information without additional cognitive load. It complicates communication over the inspection process. What is it that you might want to communicate about “Sprint Boston” (which was five sprints ago) to someone else during “Sprint Dallas”?
The Case For Non-Ordinal Sprint Labels
It’s fun, memorable, and gets the team closer together.
We can consider naming the next sprint as a fun ice breaker for the sprint planning meeting. You and your team would definitely have some interests in common.
Whether it is traveling, watching movies, or reading about science, you can select a topic and learn something about that along the sprints. Let’s say you have decided on science. Naming sprints after famous figures such as Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, or Marie Curie, if nothing, will at least make everyone curious about these personalities.
At each sprint planning, you and your team can propose the next scientist to name the sprint after. You can briefly present their field of research, contributions, personalities, and other things you might find interesting. As sprints pass, you will gain knowledge about science without being significantly engaged in it.
Team building opportunity
Naming sprints with different nontechnical names open doors to many team-building opportunities.
Let’s say that you’ve selected movies as a topic and named the current sprint as ‘Sprint#-Mission-Impossible-Fallout’.
At the end of the sprint, you can organize an event and watch this movie together with the team or simply discuss your likes and dislikes for this movie. This gets quite funny, especially when you find a relation between the movie theme and the way how the past sprint went. Integrating activities at the end of the sprint helps enormously in team building, especially in onboarding new joiners.
Meaningless names are often a symptom of your team being new to scrum and having difficulty finding an identity that helps them connect.
After all, when starting a new project, you have all sorts of odds and ends to deal with, ranging from improvements, bugs, features, and refactorings. The work in the pipeline is really all over the place, right?
But the good news is that you can create a tightly focused sprint based on extensive features or improvements and give it a meaningful nickname. And why not have fun while doing it?
As a developer, you get to see technical sprint names and terms almost daily, which gets boring. So, curiosity gets triggered whenever you encounter a nontechnical or creative sprint name in agile development.
Nontechnical sprint names are a trend nowadays. And they are your chance to get as creative as possible. Think about topics with a common interest with your team and name your sprints in your style.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand what stands behind these names when you hear them for the first time – but one thing is for sure – these fancy names automatically attract attention and interest.
For starters, choose topics that you aren’t so familiar with, as highlighted above, it will trigger higher levels of curiosity. Your options include:
2. Periodic Table
5. Cat Breeds
6. Dog Breeds
10. Computer Science Pioneers
11. Cars Brands
14. Coffee Beverages
16. TV shows
Sprint Names Matter
Why should you care about naming your iterations? After all, they are just some way to identify a sprint.
Because names matter!
Meaningful names become associated with a greater whole and signal the sprint goal. They also are quite easy to memorize. Moreover, they carry an emotional load – as soon as a developer or sprint team member hears the sprint name, the emotional load can supercharge the sprint’s progress.
As already alluded to, not naming your sprints indicates a lack of focus. The thing is, when your team is working on a project or product, there would be multiple things working simultaneously. Hence, there is a lack of focus if the sprint name isn’t out of the ordinary.
For example, can you really expect to remember what happens in Sprint 52?
Probably not. But if the name of the sprint were based on a movie, like “The Godfather” – then it wouldn’t take long to remember everything associated with the sprint – the good and the bad.
In the same manner, can you recall the goal of “Sprint 2018- 45”? Now, what if it was the “Aquaman” sprint? Would you get out of bed in the morning for “Sprint 15-05”? How about the “Game of Thrones” sprint?
There is no denying the fact that naming sprints with nontechnical terms has numerous benefits and is quite helpful for team members in agile development.
Among others, the most important is that it creates connections and emotional bonds that will stay for years. Additionally, it provides a chance to learn new things while enhancing social relations within the team. In a nutshell, it gives them something of character – or a mascot – which a straightforward goal or number wouldn’t ever offer.
Naming sprint is fun and educational, so take the time to find something unique. Share YouTube clips of our favorite TV shows to find inspiration and get passionate about seeing our favorite team winning.
Or you could marry the technical and nontechnical to develop a combo that represents your team best. Sort names from the list above and use them as a single sprint name to create a unique combination such as “Sprint-2-The-Godfather”.
No matter what you choose – remember to have fun while keeping it thought-provoking and productive.
Check Our Sprint Name Generator Out
Instead of scratching your head for hours, trying to decide on the best name for your next sprint, we decided to make it easy for you and created a simple yet truly awesome tool.
Click here to visit our sprint name generator and start creating your next sprint name in just one click: