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The magic timebox - Mastering complexity with time containers excerpt

Large and complex digitization projects and programs have many deadlines and milestones to coordinate. Strict timeboxing at all planning levels simplifies this complexity and helps maintain an overview.

Whole fleets of deadlines drive through the schedules of large projects and want to be managed. If a deadline is broken in one place, everything falls apart in another: critical paths change, test dates have to be postponed not by days but by months, expensive employees sit around because they can't get started on their task. How can you get a handle on this complexity, which becomes more difficult to manage the larger the projects become?


Scrum and other agile methods have "timeboxing" as a central element. Timeboxing means that all activities are implemented in defined durations. All projects, work packages and tasks are divided into fixed time periods. Tasks are then implemented in these time periods, and their scope is always planned so that they fit into the timebox. It is not the task that determines the duration, but the duration that defines and limits the scope of the planned task.

If the principle of timeboxing is combined with a regular rhythm time units are created that are standardized like the containers of a cargo ship and always have the same size. These fixed time containers create an extreme simplification of the management of complex tasks and dependencies:

Viele Container sind auf- und nebeneinander gestapelt

A container is limited in sizeTherefore, about the same amount of work always fits into it.

This improves the ability to plan and in a relatively short time the performance of the team, the so-called "velocity" can be well estimated and continuously improved.

If the containers are chosen small enough, the tasks within the timebox always remain manageable.

This avoids the delay and ensures that solutions are also completed within the time unit and also ensures that the progress of the work can be better measured and experienced.

The containers are filled with tasks at the beginning of the trip and "locked". This prevents that constantly new tasks can disturb or prevent the processing.

As aprotected workspace, this creates the necessary freedom for creative solutions

The decisive advantage

großer Pfeil bronze

"The "magic time containers" achieve what the shipping container has achieved for logistics: To handle more cargo and flow with less effort, to take efficiency and productivity to a new dimension."

Jürgen Richter, Senior Consultant and
FAST Product Owner at Xtentio GmbH

Jürgen Richter

However, the decisive advantage for larger projects, programs and plans is: If the time containers of different topic streams or sub-projects are also clocked in the same way and stacked on top of each other like on a container ship, you get firmly defined handover points of delivery objects and results from one team to another. Dependencies within time containers are still allowed, but are no longer the rule. This efficiently reduces the number of appointments that need to be managed. There are no longer small-scale dependencies to manage; instead, there are reliable handover points at which delivery can be expected.

Getting projects into a driving beat - that is the real secret of success of agile methods. But small timeboxes, such as two-week sprints, do not provide a sufficient framework for large projects and programs.

Therefore, in our Framework for agile Scaled Teams (FAST), we use the principle of timeboxing at all planning levels and time dimensions. The most important element of this agile framework is the so-called Season Planning. In a fixed quarterly rhythm, Season Planning provides a steady beat to which all sub-projects, teams, goals, delivery objects and results are regularly synchronized and thus become controllable. This creates continuous alignment, transparency, focus, and a constant link between strategic business goals and operational implementation - even among many internal and external project participants.

In this way, we create a secure framework for long-term successful projects and programs with a fixed, agile framework.

Fast Season Planning

Agile projects, 100% reliable?

With our agile project framework FAST, we make agile digitization projects and transformation programs plannable and manageable.

Join our experts to find out how timeboxing can drive your digital transformation now.



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