In Wicca there is a concept of the magical power of the moon. Each moon phase has different power, and different magickal workings should be done during each phase. We can apply this to Agile sprints to make Moon Phase Sprints. The sprints would be one moon cycle long (29 – 30 days). The waxing half would be used for the generative, or creative, tasks, and the waning moon would be an opportunity for polishing, testing/fixing, and retrospective. This gives an internal structure to each sprint, and lets the work follow a natural rhythm.
The new moon is the time for beginnings, for starting on a new project, so sprints start the day of the new moon. The new moon lasts three days, so the beginning activities — sprint kickoff, sprint planning, sizing and estimating, story collection — all take place in those first three days. By the end of day on the third day, everyone should be working on a task.
The waxing moon is generative, creative. Most of the work on the sprint takes place during the waxing moon. The emphasis is on new code, new stories, and new bug fixes. The team members should be working quickly, taking new stories, working on them, testing them. These are the activities that normally take the bulk of time in a traditional sprint.
The full moon is the height of power and creativity. In magick, that’s when the greatest spells are cast. Expect a greater velocity on these days; if anyone works extra hours, it will most likely be during the full moon. The full moon is considered to last three days. At end of those three days, the sprint should be feature complete.
The waning moon is designated for restorative activities. It’s contemplative and reflective. Here we complete and polish the work we created during the first half of the sprint. All stories should be completely tested and any bugs found get fixed during this phase. Code refactoring and reorganization can occur; documentation should be looked over and completed. No new features can be added during the waning moon. The last several days of the waning moon contain completion activities, such as the customer demo, retrospective, and release, and when the waning moon phase ends, the sprint should be “done done”.
The three days before the next new moon are considered the dark of the moon. In magickal thinking, almost no spells should be done during the dark of the moon. So we take these days as a break from sprint work. The team can work on tools, or environment issues, or training — activities to enhance their abilities, but no work directly on project. You could also throw a “sprint is done” party to provide closure to the sprint.
Using the moon as a guide gives an internal structure to the sprint. The moon phase sprint will follow a natural rhythm, a sort of inhale-exhale, yin-yang structure. Giving a time to create and a time to reflect makes sure both activities get equal attention, and can create a powerful, sustainable cadence.