Teams are more effective when they release more often. Of course, these releases also need to be valuable and useful to stakeholders.
The aim of all Agile methodologies, such as Scrum, is to increase the release frequency of valuable outcomes to stakeholders. There are several reasons for this. The first is that higher release frequencies provide more opportunities for teams to validate their assumptions by inspecting done increments with their stakeholders. Any feedback that is given will be far more realistic than feedback that is given on a plan, a roadmap, or a list of completed tasks from tools like JIRA. Second, new ideas and opportunities that emerge from such inspections can be included in the Product Backlog and addressed. This provides much-needed flexibility and a competitive advantage. The third reason is motivational. Goal-setting theory (Locke, 1981) shows that people are more motivated by short-term, tangible goals than by long-term goals, especially when they can influence the goals being set. Each iteration then provides a clear short-term that teams can work towards.
And there is also strong empirical evidence for this. Chow & Cao (2008) surveyed 109 Agile projects. They concluded that teams with a frequent release strategy are more successful than teams with lower frequencies. Verwijs & Russo (2022) found that teams that release more frequently also tend to be more effective. Their stakeholders are more satisfied and team morale is higher compared to teams that don’t.
So what are strategies to start improving?
👉 First, it is good to realize that increasing release frequency is not a luxury but a necessity in complex environments. In fact, the more complex the product and the environment are, the more important it is to get frequent and early feedback from stakeholders to still be able to correct course. Without those opportunities, teams can easily waste a lot of time and money on work that is ultimately not valuable. We’ve found that emphasizing this opportunity for risk management is a good way to create urgency to increase release frequency.
👉 Second, stakeholders are often strong natural allies to break through the impediments and obstacles that make it difficult to release more frequently. When release frequencies increase, they tend to benefit by being able to offer feedback early and even to take parts of the product into use already. We’ve found that support from stakeholders can be leveraged to drive change in organizations that are not traditionally flexible.
👉 Third, a good strategy is to take an incremental approach. Increasing release frequency often requires additional skills, technologies, and changes around teams. A useful approach here is to remove one obstacle at a time.
Actions to start small and simple are:
1️⃣ Involve at least 2 stakeholders to identify and remove 1 bottleneck to responsiveness in your team by the end of the next Sprint.
2️⃣ Pledge to release at least 2 times this iteration. Treat this as a constraint to spur creativity. Before you start with an item, think about how to release it individually.
3️⃣ Visit one other team in your organization that releases more frequently. Work together to identify 1 improvement for your own team.
What is your experience with improving the release frequency❓ What recommendations do you have to help a team start improving❓
Release frequency is one of the 20+ factors we measure to determine Agile & Scrum team effectiveness. Based on the results, teams receive evidence-based feedback on how to start improving.
Why don’t you give the Agile/Scrum Team Survey a try? We offer a free version focused on individual teams and a paid version that shows aggregated results of multiple teams.