What are scrum meetings or ceremonies?

Switching gears for a bit, I will talk about scrum and its meetings. I normally talk about lean software delivery and have even spoken about scrumban (a hybrid approach). However, today I’ll specifically talk about a lot of peoples introduction to agile software delivery and scrum + its meetings. This article presumes you know a bit about scrum and need a refresher about its ceremonies or meetings.

What are the scrum meetings or ceremonies?

In a pure scrum standpoint, scrum ceremony is the official term. However, people do use scrum meeting or scrum meetings to also identify these.

  1. Sprint Planning: This is a meeting that happens at the beginning of each Sprint (a time-boxed period for delivering a set of product improvements, typically 2-4 weeks). During Sprint Planning, the Product Owner (who represents the stakeholders and customers) and the Scrum Team (who will do the work) negotiate which items from the product backlog will be handled in the upcoming sprint. They also develop a sprint goal and plan.
  2. Daily Scrum or Stand-up: This is a daily, time-boxed meeting (typically 15 minutes) for the Scrum Team to synchronize their work and plan for the next 24 hours. This meeting helps to identify any impediments or blockers that might prevent the team from achieving their sprint goal. Many standups run way too long or are just going through the motions. It’s important to vary location and ensure team members aren’t talking for too long with topics unrelated to the standup.
  3. Sprint Review: At the end of the Sprint, a review meeting is held. Here, the Scrum Team and stakeholders inspect the increment of work that has been done, adapt the backlog as needed, and discuss what went well and what problems were encountered.
  4. Sprint Retrospective: After the Sprint Review, the team holds a Sprint Retrospective. This is a meeting where the Scrum Team reflects on the past sprint. They identify and agree on continuous process improvements that can be implemented in the next Sprint.
  5. Product Backlog Refinement: This is not a required meeting, but many teams find it helpful. It is a session where the Product Owner and the Development Team review items on the backlog to ensure the backlog contains the appropriate items, that they are prioritized, and that the items at the top of the backlog are ready for delivery. The goal of Product Backlog Refinement is to keep the Product Backlog up-to-date and ensure that backlog items are prepared for upcoming sprints. Having a well-refined backlog makes Sprint Planning smoother and more efficient, as it minimizes the need for clarifying questions and extensive discussion during the Sprint Planning meeting. Here’s what happens during a backlog refinement session
    • Reviewing the Product Backlog: The team, led by the Product Owner, reviews the items on the backlog to ensure that they are still relevant and prioritized correctly. This can be sometimes facilitated by the Scrum Master or SM
    • Clarifying Product Backlog Items (PBIs): PBIs, often written as user stories, are reviewed for clarity. The Product Owner explains what they want, the Development Team discusses how they might deliver the work, and any ambiguities or uncertainties are discussed and resolved. Ie, as a user I want xyz so that I can accomplish abc. The ABC may be confusing to engineers or will need to discuss tradeoffs. This is important to discuss!
    • Estimating tickets: The team discusses and estimates the effort required for each tickets. Many teams use story points for estimation, a unit of measure for expressing the overall size of a user story, feature, or other piece of work.
    • Breaking down large tickets: If any PBIs are too large to be completed in a single sprint, the team breaks them down into smaller, manageable items. The idea is to finish what we commit to.
    • Adding acceptance criteria: For each ticket, the team collaborates to define the conditions that the product must satisfy for the PBI to be accepted as done. This ensures everyone has a clear understanding of what’s expected.
    • Reordering the Product Backlog: Based on new insights, discussions or stakeholder feedback, the Product Owner might reorder the items on the backlog to best achieve goals and missions.

Who attends scrum meetings?

  1. Sprint Planning: This meeting includes the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the Development Team. Everyone collaborates, but the Product Owner makes the final decision about what will go into the Sprint backlog.
  2. Daily Scrum (or Stand-up): This meeting is meant for the Development Team. The Scrum Master might be there as a facilitator, but they are not required to attend if the team is self-organizing and can conduct the meeting on their own. The Product Owner may attend but it’s not mandatory.
  3. Sprint Review: This meeting is attended by the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, the Development Team, and relevant stakeholders. Stakeholders can provide valuable feedback on the product, so their involvement is beneficial. This can also be called sprint demo
  4. Sprint Retrospective: This meeting is for the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and the Development Team. Everyone involved in the work of the Sprint should be there to reflect on the previous sprint and discuss improvements.
  5. Product Backlog Refinement: The Product Owner leads this meeting, and it is important for the Development Team to attend so they can estimate the effort needed for each item and provide input on the feasibility and specifics of the backlog items. The Scrum Master often attends to facilitate the meeting, but their presence is not mandatory.

How often to scrum meetings take place?

  1. Sprint Planning: This meeting occurs once at the beginning of each sprint. For a two-week sprint, this meeting is usually limited to a maximum of four hours. Many teams recently have been having longer refinement sessions with small sprint planning sessions.
  2. Daily Scrum (or Stand-up): As its name suggests, the Daily Scrum happens every day of the sprint. It’s a quick, time-boxed meeting usually lasting no longer than 15 minutes.
  3. Sprint Review: The Sprint Review happens once at the end of each sprint, before the Sprint Retrospective. For a two-week sprint, it is usually limited to a maximum of two hours.
  4. Sprint Retrospective: This meeting happens once at the end of each sprint, after the Sprint Review and before the next Sprint Planning. For a two-week sprint, it is usually limited to a maximum of one and a half hours.
  5. Product Backlog Refinement: The frequency of backlog refinement can vary. It isn’t an official Scrum meeting, but many teams find it helpful to meet at least once per sprint to keep the backlog organized and prioritized. Some teams might choose to do it more frequently.

So that’s the intro to scrum meetings. If you have any questions just leave a comment below or contact me. Scrum is often one of the first agile software delivery many are exposed to. I do get questions occasionally on it so I hope this helps individuals. If you want to implement best practices in your organization or aren’t sure where to start, contact me!

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