TL; DR: The Hardening Sprint Fallacy
There are plenty of failure possibilities with Scrum. Given that Scrum is a framework with a reasonable yet short “manual,” this effect should not surprise anyone. The hardening Sprint is one of those Scrum failures that are particularly challenging.
Explore with me the deep-rooted issues we can learn from a team that practices a hardening Sprint, from the level of team maturity to possible organizational concerns of becoming agile in less than 100 seconds.
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Why a Hardening Sprint Is Challenging
At the core, this Scrum anti-pattern is a simple challenge: There is no such thing as a hardening Sprint in Scrum.
If there is one thing that comes to mind regarding Scrum, it is the relentless focus on quality, expressed in the Definition of Done and delivered with every Increment. As a Scrum team, our quality goals never decrease; there is no cutting corner whatsoever, such as “it works on my machine.”
Therefore, a hardening Sprint is commonly a sign of a low grade of adoption of agile principles by the Scrum team or the organization. There are plenty of reasons for that; for example, the Scrum team is not yet cross-functional or at an early stage of its Scrum adoption. Alternatively, the “QA department” may still be a functional, non-agile silo. The organization’s incentive structures probably favor the output of the individual over the outcome of the Scrum team. (Which often results in the creation of a feature factory, accumulating technical debt.)
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There is no hardening Sprint in Scrum. As a Scrum Team, ensure that your Definition of Done reflects “releasable” at any given moment in time. High product quality is a cornerstone of every successful Scrum team. You won’t achieve that level if running hardening Sprints becomes a habit.
Have you had a “hardening Sprint” in the past with your team? If so, please share with us the rationale of the decision.
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