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Feb 16

Sprint – Cadence – Iteration. What’s the difference?

Iteration, sprint, cadence. While these terms have a lot in common, each of them has a slightly different flavor to it. They all have to do with Scrum and SAFe® – modern project management frameworks. A timeframe of one to four weeks is what they all roughly mean. How do they differ?



A sprint in project management lacks the element of competition.

Can you reckon the last Olympic Games that you might have seen on TV? Your team members are similar to sprinters because they have something to prove in a relatively short, defined period of time, usually one to four weeks.

Example: A sprint at SoftwarePlant starts on Monday, with a two-hour retrospection/planning meeting with the stakeholders, 15-20 minutes per team. The sprint ends on the following Monday to give way to… the next sprint. During the sprint daily 15-minute stand-ups should occur within each team, but they are optional. One-week sprints are quite rare in real life and happen in extremely Agile organizations. Those less Agile use two- to four-week sprints, and that’s still OK.

The project management sprint differs from running in that:

  • team members are expected to cooperate, and not compete,
  • the PM sprint is finished on the planned date and not when sprinters cross the finish line.

Sprint is a Scrum term but was adopted by other Agile project management frameworks. How to plan Sprints in Jira?

Keywords: timebox, Scrum, retrospection, act on feedback, planning, meeting



Iteration is very similar to sprint, except iteration is a common noun. XP, or Extreme Programming, Scrum, and Scaled Agile Framework – they all use iterations. Scrum coined a special name for their iterations, namely ‘Sprints’. In many organizations ‘Iteration’ and ‘sprint’ are used interchangeably. All sprints are iterations, but not all iterations are sprints.

Example: Teams at SoftwarePlant reiterate every week, as they plan work on Mondays, complete tasks throughout a week, and then plan again on the next Monday.

Keywords: repeating, cycle


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U-Boat watch. Cadence, time duration

Cadence in Agile project management is about the duration of a Sprint, iteration, or PI.

“A sprint of four-week cadence”, “An iteration of two-week cadence”, “A Program Increment of 12-week cadence” – with cadence duration and predictability are the key points. Cadence is how long a Sprint, an iteration or a Program Increment lasts.

Example: Without cadence, the first sprint in SoftwarePlant could theoretically last a week, the next sprint – two weeks, and the third – two and a half weeks. Thanks to the one-week cadence, everyone knows that the sprints last exactly 7 days. Fixed-length cadence ensures people feel ‘safe’.

Keywords: duration, number of days or weeks, length of time, regular, predictable, rhythm, schedule


Seeking hands-on experience with Sprints, iterations, cadences in Jira? Try BigPicture PPM app for free.


The good news

Sep 2021
Firstly, are story points hot or overrated? Story points extend the familiar time component with complexity and risks, for greater accuracy of estimations. They also add another “safety feature” – average velocity per sprint. Read more.

Sep 2021
Secondly, if organizations followed the principles of neoclassical capitalism, some professions could witness as much as 90% staff reduction. In real life though, the digital transformation of the workplace does not bring a drastic reduction in employment. Why is that?.

Aug 2021
Thirdly, is there an all-in-one app for Jira? Little visualization and missing “management umbrella” are Jira’s major drawbacks. How to supplement what Jira is missing most? Read more.

About The Author

With his automotive background Marcin goes beyond the 'Jira + software development' standard. He likes simple, up-to-five-sentence answers to complex questions.