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How to organise and carry out successful Scrum Ceremonies.

scrum ceremonies

No, this article is not about official ceremonies and the latest trends in fashion. That might have also been an interesting topic but what you are really interested in is how to successfully implement Scrum within your technology startup. This is where the ceremonies, otherwise called meetings, play a vital role.

 

In short, Scrum ceremonies help you and your team keep things organised and control the unexpected. There are five such ceremonies and, as with the Roles, none is more important than the other.

The Sprint Planning Meeting

It is held at the beginning of each new iteration. It is attended by the PO, the Scrum Master & the team to plan the stories for the next sprint. The meeting is time-boxed to four hours and it is held in the form of a conversation between the Product Owner and the team. The Product Owner’s job during this meeting is to decide which stories are of the highest priority and which will generate the highest business value. The team has the power to push back and inform the PO if there are any concerns or impediments.

sprint planning meeting

Only when the team commits to tackling the work, does the Product Owner add the stories to the sprint backlog. Although, at this point, the PO may choose to leave and let the team split the sprint backlog items into tasks, he should still be available to answer questions, provide further explanation regarding Product Backlog items, or even renegotiate. This meeting was previously known as the sprint definition meeting. It is also time-boxed to four hours with the purpose of including all sprint planning activities into a single working day.

Thinslices’ advice: Set a Sprint Goal. This can be in the form of a short description of what the team plans to achieve during the following sprint. It is written collaboratively by the team and the PO. In our experience, having a common goal will greatly contribute to your team’s success.

The Scrum Backlog Grooming

It takes place on a regular basis.The team, including the PO, meet to "groom the product backlog". This implies removing stories that are no longer relevant, creating new stories, re-assessing the priority of stories, assigning or correcting estimates.

The main purpose of the Grooming meeting is to get everyone involved into preparing the Product Backlog for the upcoming sprint planning meeting. This usually includes adding new stories and epics, extracting stories from existing epics, and estimating effort for existing stories. This is helpful because a groomed backlog helps streamline sprint planning meetings which could otherwise stretch on for hours. Product Backlog items with clearly defined acceptance criteria and which are estimated by the team members, highly enhance the planning process by reducing its length and eliminating possible tension.

Thinslices’ advice: Limit the number of stakeholders taking part in your grooming. If you have several stakeholders from whom you want to gather feedback, get it from them in a series of 2 – 3 meetings, not one big one. The reason for this is that oftentimes stakeholders do not understand the rules of Scrum as well as the team, Product Owner and Scrum Master do. Consequently, they could make it chaotic and less effective.

The Daily Standup Meeting

It is time-boxed to 15 min and it takes place at the same time every day. Given the fact that both the Scrum Master as well as the Product Owner are committed team members, they are expected to attend and actively participate. Representatives from other departments are allowed to attend with the condition that they only listen and refrain themselves from intervening in any way. The team meets with the purpose of keeping everyone up to date on the information that is important for coordination. That is why each team member briefly describes "completed" tasks and informs all the other of any obstacles that stand in their way.

scrum daily standup meeting

During the Daily Scrum, each team member answers the following three questions:

  1. What did you do yesterday?
  2. What will you do today?
  3. Are there any impediments in your way?

By focusing on what each member accomplished yesterday and will accomplish today, the team gains an excellent understanding of what work has been done and what work remains. The impediments that are raised during this meeting become the Scrum Master's responsibility to resolve in the shortest amount of time.

Thinslices’ advice: Don’t make a status meeting out of your Daily Scrum Meeting! The latter is not a status update meeting in which a boss gathers information about who is behind schedule. On the contrary, it is a meeting in which team members make commitments to each other.

The Sprint Review

It takes place on the last day of each sprint. The purpose of the meeting is for the team to show the customers and the stakeholders the work they have accomplished over the sprint.

The Sprint Review is open to those interested in reviewing the sprint's accomplishments. This allows all stakeholders to see progress on the product and provide feedback.

The Sprint Review meeting is particularly valuable to the development team as it provides an opportunity for the team to showcase its work in the form of a product increment and get recognition from the stakeholders. The meeting highly influences the development team’s morale and has the purpose of keeping them motivated and committed so that they continue producing high volumes of quality work.

Thinslices’ advice: Don’t make a PowerPoint presentation out of your Sprint Review meeting! This will only make it boring and the team members will not feel involved in the process whereas they need to be motivated and receive the proper recognition for their sprint achievements. Refer to the sprint backlog if you need to display a list of completed user stories. And try to keep it time-boxed to 1 hour!

The Sprint Retrospective

This meeting is facilitated by the Scrum Master. During the Retrospective, the team discusses the just-concluded sprint and determines what could be changed that might make the next sprint more productive. The meeting should be time-boxed.

scrum sprint retrospective

The retrospective includes three main questions/ points for discussion:

  1. What went well during the sprint cycle?
  2. What went wrong during the sprint cycle?
  3. What could we do differently to improve?

The Sprint Retrospective is an important meeting because it allows a team to continuously evolve and improve throughout the life of a project.

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Thinslices’ advice: it is important that the team and the Scrum Master, get a chance to express their thoughts and opinions in a friendly, honest, yet constructive atmosphere. What’s said during the retrospective, should not be used against any of the team members!

Scrum Ceremonies was the last article in our Scrum Pill series. Hope you’ve found this one, as well as the other three articles, useful and valuable for your technology startup. Remember that people come before processes and use Scrum to streamline your teams’ software development activities!

Our next pill will be on Product Design! The life of a startup depends on an idea. The product design process can bring it to life. Stay tuned!

 

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