I Don’t Believe in Sprints

Sprints and backlogs and pointing tickets—the nigh-on universal method for making software today—is stupid. All this junk around the work makes software slower and more difficult to build. It’s form-filling monkey work and the only way we can improve the quality of software is to throw all those best practices away.

(Hot take alert!)

Sprints don’t help organize things, they’re not a useful organizing tool, and if we were all honest with each other then we’d admit they’re designed for managers who don’t trust their employees (if your manager needs to look at Jira to figure out what work you’ve done for your review or what’s shipped lately then they’re not paying enough attention to the team).

Likewise, I’ve never seen a good team improved by sprints and I’ve never seen a crappy team improved by them either (side note: there are no crappy teams, only crappy managers). In fact, every efficient and productive team I’ve worked on has ignored the concept of sprints altogether; people are more focused without them, they communicate better. When you’re on a team like that, then it’s easy to see how everyone else mistakes the bureaucracy around the work for the work itself.

But Jira is not the work. Pointing things for an hour is an hour you’ll never get back. It’s an hour lost, an hour carelessly thrown into the void, an hour that could’ve been spent building the next most important thing.

Good teams don’t need sprints to get good work done. They don’t need to point tickets or file receipts away once something is complete. This always leads to an endless backlog of crap anyway which is also a waste of time since they too only serve managers who are scared to say “ah yes, we have listened to this complaint and we believe it’s not important.” That’s what a backlog is; a list of useless tasks that makes people feel better. The next most important thing, the thing right around the corner, is all that matters. And that stuff you’ll remember if you’re paying close attention. Discard everything else. Focus!

So all of this junk—the backlogs, the sprints, the points—is pure bureaucracy. It gets in the way of productive folks, punishing them for the lack of confidence in their leaders.