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How Much Should a Team Get Done in a Sprint – Interview with JJ Sutherland

Dave Prior Senior Consultant/CST-CRM Specialist
Reading: How Much Should a Team Get Done in a Sprint – Interview with JJ Sutherland

I was recently contacted by a friend/former co-worker who I met when we were both starting out during the .com boom. A few months ago, he brought his team to take my CSM class.  After he and his team took my class, they went back to their organization and began practicing Scrum. At some point shortly after that, a different section of the organization attended a CSM class taught by JJ Sutherland.

How Much Work Should a Team Plan for in a Sprint?

What my friend reached out about was the fact that there was an area where my teaching and JJ’s teaching seemed to be at odds. While unintended, this was causing them some extra stress in trying to get Agile to take root in the organization. The issue revolved around how much work a team should plan to do and accomplish in a Sprint. While I had a feeling JJ and I were probably closer than not on the topic, I thought it would be a great idea to discuss/debate in a podcast. So in this episode of SoundNotes, JJ and I break down the topic to see where we agree, where we don’t, and why.

If you are not familiar with JJ Sutherland, he’s the Chief Product Owner at Scrum, Inc. If his last name sounds familiar, it’s because Jeff Sutherland is his Dad. But, given some of the work experiences JJ has had, that fact is far from the most interesting thing about him.  During the interview, we also discuss JJ’s experience working for NPR in war zones, the many places he has successfully used Scrum that have nothing at all to do with IT, and the podcast he produces on video games.

Show Notes:

00:08 Interview Start

00:28 JJ Intro

01:04 Topic Intro and Dave’s opinion

01:28 JJ’s opinion and his thoughts on tracking interruptions

03:02 JJ recommends planning a buffer for interrupts and at what point the volume of interrupts might cause you to abort the sprint

03:45 Dave’s way of planning for interrupts in a sprint

05:00 Debating the pros and cons of estimating task hours during Sprint Planning,  tracking acceleration, and percent of forecast met from Sprint to Sprint

07:27 Measuring output (instead of hours) and how this was so important to JJ’s work for NPR

08:29 What do they do with blown up Humvees?

11:17 Using Scrum with broadcasters in Egypt during the Arab Spring

13:00 How Definition of Done is different (and way more scary) in broadcast radio

14:13 Different places outside of software that JJ has used Scrum and the benefits it can provide

16:33 How different parts of the military are adopting Agile (and not)

19:15 Swapping out team members without destroying the team (with examples in military and business)

21:07 How one client changed the way they bonus employees to be more supportive of an Agile mindset

22:04 Blaming everything on Frederick Taylor and overcoming his impact

23:55 The biggest danger to Scrum and Agile

24:30 Developing empathy for those who want to be “Agile” but don’t actually adopt Agile

27:00 Working past the things you “can’t” do and helping your business survive

27:58 “If you’re doing great, don’t do agile… Change is painful”

28:25 Recap on the verdict about how much to plan into a Sprint

28:42 Teams that finish early accelerate faster

32:09 JJ’s podcast Shall we play a game?

34:10 Finding a way to incorporate your hobby into your work life in order to stay creatively fulfilled

35:51 Traveling with your gaming rig

36:18 Planning the podcast and collaborating with long time friends as another way of staying creatively fulfilled

38:25 Finding the podcast  and getting in touch with JJ

39:00 Upcoming events for Scrum Inc.

Learn more about JJ Sutherland

For more on JJ’s podcast, “Shall We Play a Game?”, you can find it on iTunes or the podcast app of your choice at

You can also follow the show on Twitter, @shallweshow or reach them via email at

If you’d like to reach out to JJ directly you can do so via email at or Twitter.

The book, Scrum, The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time, was co-authored by JJ and Jeff Sutherland.

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