In Agile practices, cadence refers to a sequence or rhythm of events in a project. It creates a pattern for the team to follow that allows them to better understand what they’re doing and when they will complete tasks.
You can compare cadence to the synchronized activities of an NFL team in every play. The quarterback, the receiver, and everyone on the team must be in sync to make a successful pass. For development teams, everyone needs to be in sync to achieve the defined goals of each sprint or iteration.
When working with Agile methodologies, most involve fixed duration events we call Sprints or Iterations. A cadence is formed when your development team carries on with their iterations in succession and keeps a consistent iteration duration.
When it comes to flow-based Agile methodologies such as Kanban, the cadence is the overall project length. You can still have a healthy cadence while working in a flow-based Agile way — you just need to measure it slightly differently. Rather than using iterations to define your cadence, the cadence is simply a continuous flow.
Agile uses many different terms to describe the same thing. For example, a time-box is the same as an iteration, which is also the same as a sprint. These three terms describe the period of time allocated to a set of tasks. They are short periods of time used to complete a small number of specifically chosen tasks. As time goes on, the work done in these short bursts will integrate to produce a final product.
Cadence is a little less confusing because fewer interchangeable words exist. Cadence simply refers to the overall time taken to finish the project and the rhythm each iteration created.
The concept of cadence is handy for scrum teams that struggle to find a good rhythm during development. Rather than focusing on time boxes that force teams to use fixed times for planning, releases, and retrospectives, you can talk about each activity separately with a cadence of planning, a cadence of releasing, and a cadence of retrospectives.
The purpose of a cadence is to establish a reliable and dependable capability that demonstrates a predictable capacity. Your team can build up more significant levels of consistency and improve the likelihood of sprints succeeding simply by focusing on cadence rather than time boxes.