The Standard Two-Week (well maybe one is just as good or better…) Iteration

Philippe Kruchten, while reviewing the book in preparing for writing the foreword ( and thereby causing me no end of grief as well as the obvious need to spend a weekend or two rewriting some sections that he fairly, and roundly criticized) noted that in Chapter 11, Mastering the Iteration, that I was “ again being dogmatic about iteration length” with my steady drumbeat of a two week iteration.

I defended the recommendation as I have substantial and quite successful experience with this pattern in over a half dozen projects, large (think BMC and others) and small (no names provided because no one thinks their project is small) , and therefore left it as such in the book.

And now you might ask, (link) how do I then find myself directly managing an agile project with one week iteration lengths? The answer, I never even saw it coming. When we first started this project in summer of 2006, the team was brand new and new to each other, all raw recruits, the project was not well defined, the technology choices were all over the map. So naturally we started with shorter iterations, giving us a more frequent cadence and giving us the chance to review the exploratory results as well as individual talent on a frequent weekly basis. As the team learned the domain, we moved from exploration to hard core development and never changed the pattern.

Simply, the team learned how to divide their work into one week size chunks even as the system grew. When faced with a major refactoring or particularly large and seemingly atomic chunk of work, we would simply lay out the objectives in two or maybe three separate iterations, (Not necessarily forcing fully integrated functional outcomes at each boundary, but absolutely forcing fully testable outcomes, protocols, interfaces and the like) but all of one week length. The weekly pattern is so simple and obvious (“if it’s Tuesday I better have all my stories in acceptance testing…”) and so easy to manage, I doubt we’ll ever leave the pattern. We could, and we would likely be successful, but do we need to? Do we think we would benefit? – nope.

Will I update the two week to one week recommendation in the book? I have no idea, but I suspect you will never hear or see the words “three week iteration.”


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