I had called it ‘Softening Iterations’ in this 2009 article https://www.agileconnection.com/article/softening-iterations-setting-success
The name didn’t catch on … although I have to say I thought it was clever – softening up or ‘unhardening’ before you can really get going with the project.
The concept though eventually became mainstream in the agile world – I was happy to see. It is now known as “Sprint 0”, or “Iteration 0” – a lot more intuitive name I must admit – and is regularly practiced by agile teams.
What exactly is sprint 0?
I had some detailed suggestions back in 2009 – and I think they are still relevant. To put it in one sentence, it is the time spent to get your ducks in a row before you can start tackling actual user stories. It’s relevant whether you use Scrum type sprints or cards in a Kanban board, having the team focus on these critical tasks is crucial for team success.
A similar concept is also found in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) in the form of ‘Enablers’, albeit – with a wider scope covering not just iteration 0, but appearing throughout the life of the project.
A good understanding of the ‘Enabler’ concept is very helpful … and SAFe does a wonderful job of detailing and categorizing enablers. Although like most things SAFe, the description of the concept becomes much more prescriptive than I believe is helpful.
That is a discussion for another day, meanwhile – like the Bard said … what you call it doesn’t change the meaning … call it Sprint 0, but don’t forget to ‘soften’ the project!