If we start a sprint with a specific goal and the user stories to support that goal, then the business changes their immediate requirements during that sprint. This may be because of a client requirement or an internal 'emergency'.

For example, we start a 2 week sprint with a number of planned tickets to reach the sprint goal. After 3 days, the business approach us with a need for some functionality not in the current sprint. This is needed to appease a dissatisfied client. There is a requirement to abandon the current goal and set this urgent work as a new one.

How do we handle this? Do we fail the sprint and start planning again? Do we insist on finishing the current sprint and do this urgent work in the next one?

  • The Sprint hasn't "failed." It has been superseded. But yes, the PO cancels the Sprint and the team returns to Sprint Planning. – Todd A. Jacobs Sep 6 at 16:54

The product owner should decide when the objective of the sprint becomes obsolete and hence cancel the sprint.

If this is a recurrent situation, there's a need to diagnose why it is happening.

Details from the scrum guide:

Cancelling a Sprint

A Sprint can be cancelled before the Sprint time-box is over. Only the Product Owner has the authority to cancel the Sprint, although he or she may do so under influence from the stakeholders, the Development Team, or the Scrum Master.

A Sprint would be cancelled if the Sprint Goal becomes obsolete. This might occur if the company changes direction or if market or technology conditions change. In general, a Sprint should be cancelled if it no longer makes sense given the circumstances. But, due to the short duration of Sprints, cancellation rarely makes sense.

When a Sprint is cancelled, any completed and "Done" Product Backlog items are reviewed. If part of the work is potentially releasable, the Product Owner typically accepts it. All incomplete Product Backlog Items are re-estimated and put back on the Product Backlog. The work done on them depreciates quickly and must be frequently re-estimated.

Sprint cancellations consume resources, since everyone regroups in another Sprint Planning to start another Sprint. Sprint cancellations are often traumatic to the Scrum Team, and are very uncommon.

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