A Beginner’s Guide to Scrum Ceremonies

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The secret to scrum is simplicity, even in the face of complexity. And although scrum is simple at heart, it can be difficult to master. Scrum requires self-organizing teams that can quickly solve problems in unpredictable environments. In order to provide transparency and regular communication in the midst of such environments, scrum ceremonies are held. Scrum ceremonies are meetings that are unique to scrum teams.

Scrum ceremonies ensure that everyone (the scrum master, product owner and development team) is in-sync. These ceremonies are held at key instances in a sprint, which we’ll outline below.

what are scrum ceremonies?

The Four Scrum Ceremonies

Scrum is executed in what are called sprints, or short iterations of work lasting usually no more than two weeks. A sprint employs four different scrum ceremonies to ensure proper execution: sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review and sprint retrospective. These scrum ceremonies are outlined below:

  • Sprint Planning: This is where the team meets and decides what they need to complete in the coming sprint
  • Daily Scrum: This is a standup meeting, or a very short – 15-minute mini-meeting – for the team to make sure they’re all on the same page.
  • Sprint Review: This is another type of meeting, but one in which the team demos what they shipped in the sprint.
  • Sprint Retrospective: This is when the team reviews their work, identifying what they did well and what didn’t go as planned, so they can make the next sprint better.

Let’s dig a little deeper and explore each scrum ceremony in depth.

Sprint Planning

This ceremony helps to set up the entire team for the coming sprint, creating a smooth pathway for a successful sprint. Sprint planning requires the participation of all the scrum roles: the development team, scrum master and the product owner. The planning, of course, is prior to the sprint. It typically lasts for an hour or two.

The product owner comes to the meeting with a prioritized list of the product backlog items, which is presented to the group. The items on the list, which are also called user stories, are then discussed with the development team. Together, they estimate what it will take to complete the items on the list. From this information, the development team makes a sprint forecast. They will outline how much work the team can complete from the product backlog. This will be known as the sprint backlog.

Related: 7 Backlog Grooming Tips for Beginners

Some sprint planning ceremonies will flesh out details of each user story. This will make sure that everyone involved understands the scope of the work. Though, some will have a separate story refinement meeting or ceremony. By doing this, the actual sprint planning ceremony is shorter and directed only towards user stories that will be tackled in the upcoming sprint.

Daily Scrum

This short scrum ceremony makes sure that everyone knows what’s happening. It’s a way to ensure transparency across the team. This is not the time to dive into the weeds. A detailed status meeting this is not, but rather a light and fun informative meeting. It’s a space for each team member to answer the following questions: what did you complete yesterday, what are you working on today and are you blocked by anything?

The daily scrum is, as it says, a daily occurrence, which usually takes place each morning with the development team, scrum master and product owner. The ceremony is short, usually 15 minutes, which is why it’s also called a standup meeting. That will make sure it doesn’t drag on.

Related: How to Run a Great Scrum Meeting

The great thing about the daily scrum is that is demands accountability. People report honestly on what they did, what they plan on doing and how they might be getting blocked in the process, and this is all done in front of their peers. Having to report in such a social setting sets up the team for success because it would be embarrassing to not be showing progress in front of others.

Daily scrum is not limited to teams that share a physical location. If the teams are working remotely, the ceremony can be conducted with video conferencing or another group chat.

Sprint Review

After the sprint has been completed, it’s time to get the team together to demo or showcase their work. Each team member reviews the newly developed features or whatever it was that they worked on during the sprint. This provides a space for the team to congratulate themselves on a successful sprint, which is important for morale. It also demonstrates the finished work for the entire team, so they can provide feedback and also get feedback from the stakeholders in the project.

Here, unlike other ceremonies, the review can last as long as it takes to demo all the work done by the team. Again, the participants are the development team, scrum master and product owner, but also in this instance, other teams involved in the project and the stakeholders.

These demos are not partial but a full review of the work. If not, then the point of the sprint review is diminished. The reviews must meet the quality level set up by the team or they’re not considered complete and shouldn’t be demoed in the sprint review.

Sprint Retrospective

The last scrum ceremony is called the sprint retrospective. It occurs at the end of a sprint, after the review, and is usually an hour in duration. The retrospective includes the development team, scrum master and product owner.

Because scrum is part of an agile process, it is all about change, which includes getting feedback and quickly acting on it. Scrum seeks continuous improvement and the retrospective is a method to make sure that the product and development culture is constantly improving.

Related: Top 12 Agile Principles

The retrospective is a way for the team to understand what has worked well and what didn’t come together over the previous sprint. The post-mortem exposes fault lines in the team and its process, so they can buttress those weak spots and approach the next sprint in stronger form.

This is not a bull session in which talk doesn’t go outside of the meeting. It is a place for talk that leads to action. Team members are discouraged from complaining or criticizing without everyone working together to resolve those issues.

The sprint retrospective isn’t a blame game but a means to identify and rectify issues that have come up over the course of the sprint. It is also an instrument to congratulate the team on a job well done when there were no issues. But, if the mantra of scrum is to always seek to improve, then the retrospective must be critical, too, but only as a steppingstone to improvements. Constructive criticism is key here.

There’s More to Know

Scrum ceremonies are almost an outdated term. They’re started to be called events. It was first officially noted in the 2011 Scrum Guide. So, even in the fast-moving world of agile, some things change more slowly than others.

But the basic concepts are the same, as is the need to constantly be reviewing and looking at ways to improve. That includes one’s knowledge of scrum. We’ve only scratched the surface. Scrum is simple in concept and difficult in mastery.

Scrum ceremonies are a great way to move fast and change quickly as needed when working on a project. To facilitate this agile process, though, one must have the tools to allow them to identity fast and then get the whole team to pivot. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that with features that do that. From visualizing workflow with Kanban boards to a real-time dashboard that keeps you current with the project’s process, ProjectManager.com is the only Scrum tool you’ll ever need. See for yourself, by taking this free 30-day trial.

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