When I am trying a new exercise or my trainer is pushing me to do more reps at the gym, I find that I have to remind myself to breathe. If my breathing feels off, I struggle to focus on what I am doing. Similarly, if a team isn't remembering to breathe, its cadence might be off and members might be struggling to focus on the right work. I recently talked with a team that has had challenges meeting its sprint commitments, and their release date is approaching quickly. In a panic, the team had agreed to change its sprint length, cut short its retrospective, and not focus on creating a clear plan during its sprint planning. Needless to say, the team's challenges have not been resolved through these actions. In fact, the team was on track to continue down its murky path until one team member suggested what had been in the back of others' minds: cancel the current sprint. The team had been in such a hurry to deliver that they didn't know what they were supposed to be delivering. Story conversations were churning, and the end was not in sight even though the release date was getting closer.
So they agreed to cancel the sprint. And change the sprint length to be shorter but of consistent size. And to work with their Product Owner to rewrite the backlog so the stories were clear, estimatable, and small enough to be completed in their shorter sprints. Bold moves, but as an Agile coach, I think the team is in better shape. Now we can all breathe a little easier.