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What Are Scrum Ceremonies – The 4 Agile Scrum Ceremonies Explained

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Last updated on
31st May, 2022
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06th Aug, 2021
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What Are Scrum Ceremonies – The 4 Agile Scrum Ceremonies Explained

Scrum, one of the most popular Agile frameworks, works around short iterative release cycles called sprints. Each sprint is of a time-boxed duration during which a product increment that offers some value to the end user is delivered. Scrum lays out specific concepts and processes, and a Scrum implementation must faithfully follow each of these best practices to be successful.

Scrum - Roles, Artifacts And Ceremonies

Scrum ceremonies —also called Events or Meetings—are key to ensuring that the project is on track, everyone is coordinated, and lines of communication are smooth. These ceremonies are held at regular intervals during the project journey.  Let us look at each of these ceremonies and find out what happens during each of them; and who does what, when and where!

Scrum Ceremonies: An Overview

Scrum ceremonies lay the foundation for teams to set expectations and achieve goals. They empower the team members to collaborate more efficiently and facilitate the removal of any impediments that could impair progress. It is these ceremonies that drive progress and bring the Scrum project to a successful conclusion.  

The four ceremonies are: 

  • Sprint Planning 
  • Daily Stand-up 
  • Sprint Review 
  • Sprint Retrospective 

These ceremonies enable the core principles of Scrum, and teams that want to follow Scrum in its entirety —which is important to achieve success— must ensure that they take them seriously.

Ceremonies in Scrum Cycle 

Sprint PlanningWhat Is a Sprint Planning Meeting?

The Sprint Planning event happens at the start of every sprint and prepares the team for the tasks they must complete during the upcoming sprint. 

Sprint Planning

  • Attendees:  The entire Development team, the Product Owner and the Scrum Master are required to attend.  
  • When: This event is held on the first day of the sprint 
  • Duration: Sprint planning for a 1-week sprint typically lasts for one hour, for a 2-week sprint for two hours, and so on. It should not last too long as it will eat into the time of the sprint itself. 
  • Agenda: The Product Owner would have already prepared a prioritized product backlog and will share it with everyone present. The first few items will be discussed, and the dev team will estimate the approximate time they require to complete the tasks. Based on this estimate, a sprint forecast is prepared which is the basis for outlining the sprint backlog; an ordered list of tasks to be completed within that sprint. The team will decide what tasks will be delivered at the end of the sprint (the sprint goal) and what is the work necessary to complete these tasks (the sprint backlog). 
  • Expert speak: This meeting sets the tone for success. Everyone must take part in the discussions, voice their opinions, and raise objections if any. There should be consensus on the tasks to be taken up and completed. Team members can detail out tasks for all the sprint backlog items, and this will set the ball rolling.

Daily Scrum (Daily Stand-up): What Is a Daily Scrum Meeting?

This is a meeting held usually at the start of each workday, where the team synchronizes and plans the work to be done that day.

Daily Scrum

  • Attendees: The entire Development team, the Product Owner and the Scrum Master are required to attend.  
  • When: This event is usually held in the morning. 
  • Duration: The Daily Stand-up is time-boxed at a maximum of 15 minutes. There is a reason it is called a Stand-up—it ensures that people don’t sit down and get too comfortable, which will lead to a longer meeting that is a waste of everyone’s time!  
  • Agenda: The Stand-up is a noticeably short meeting, where each person answers three questions that are designed to elicit the information needed to update everyone on the progress made. These questions are quite simple:  
    • What did I complete yesterday? 
    • What will I work on today? 
    • Am I blocked by anything? 

When team members share this information with others, they are motivated to perform at their best and showcase the progress they have made. Additionally, when the Scrum Master is made aware of the blocks faced by anyone on the team, he or she will iron out the issues and enable progress.

  • Experts speak: This meeting is just to ensure that everyone is on the same page and sets in place a culture of transparency across the team. Team members who are in various locations can join in through videoconferencing, but this is a meeting that cannot and must never be skipped. Nobody wants to be pulled up for being the one who hinders progress, especially when others know what is being done every day! 

Sprint Review: What Is a Sprint Review Meeting?

During the Review, the work completed during the sprint is demonstrated to all stakeholders.

Sprint Review

  • Attendees:  The entire Development team, the Product Owner and the Scrum Master are required to attend.  Stakeholders who wish to give their feedback on the product increment must also attend. 
  • When: This event is held at the end of a sprint. 
  • Duration: While this really depends on the team, the Sprint Review usually lasts between 30 minutes to one hour. It is not a time-boxed event, however, and could run longer if the stakeholders have a lot to say. 
  • Agenda: The Sprint Review is the event during which the work done during the sprint is highlighted to the stakeholders. It could be a casual event or structured more formally, which is something that, again, depends on the team. Only work that has passed the Definition of Done can be complete in all aspects and can be demoed during the meeting. Stakeholders are expected to give immediate feedback, which will be incorporated into the backlog and taken up during the next sprint. 
  • Experts speak: This meeting is a time to celebrate achievements. Pat yourselves on the back for what you have accomplished during the sprint and get ready to move on to the next one! 

Sprint Retrospective: What Is a Sprint Retrospective Meeting?

Held at the end of a sprint, the Retrospective is a meeting where the team can reflect on the completed sprint, understand what went well and what did not, and find ways to improve.

Sprint Retrospective

  • Attendees: The entire Development team, the Product Owner and the Scrum Master are required to attend. Outside stakeholders should not be present. 
  • When: This event is held at the end of a sprint, after the Review. 
  • Duration: Usually one hour for a 1-week sprint, and up to 3 hours for a sprint that lasted a month. 
  • Agenda: The team is given the opportunity to reflect on the product that was demoed during the review and can brainstorm ways for improvement. Everyone gets to discuss what went well and how the processes could be improved. It is important to note that this should be a positive space with no allocation of blame, and no accusations. 

Typically, these questions are answered: 

  1. During the last sprint, what are the things that did go well? 
  2. What did not go well, and what are some reasons for this? (Remember: no blame!) 
  3. What are the things that we could do differently to improve? 
  • Experts speak: Agile is a methodology where the focus is on continuous improvements. This ceremony offers a platform for discussions on what could be done to improve every aspect of the work done by the team during the upcoming sprints. 

Sprint Backlog Refinement 

An article on Scrum ceremonies is not complete unless we also discuss Backlog Refinement, which is an important activity that sets the stage for each sprint. The Product Backlog is an ordered list of tasks that must be completed during the project in its entirety. It is an ongoing activity that is managed by the Product Owner, who ‘grooms’ or refines the Product Backlog to reflect the priority of tasks left to be completed by the team.

The Sprint Backlog is a subset of the Product Backlog and outlines the tasks that are to be completed during that sprint. The PO, in conjunction with the team, will add detail, estimates and priorities to the items in the Sprint Backlog during the Sprint Planning meeting.  The Sprint Backlog provides a clear picture— in real-time, which is important! — of the work that the team will carry out during that sprint to achieve the sprint goal. Created by the whole team, the Sprint Backlog is visible to everyone but can only be modified by the Dev team.

Sprint Backlog Refinement

Summing up! 

Scrum ceremonies are designed to drive progress, increase collaboration and smoothen out impediments. When followed correctly and with the right mindset, they are indeed proven to deliver results.  

However, the very premise of Scrum being Agile, no process can be considered perfect and there is always room for improvement. In the end, while each team can decide ways of bettering their processes; they should never choose to skip the ceremonies entirely. When ceremonies are abandoned, usually it means that the team has abandoned the underlying principles as well; and that is something that will hinder progress.  

While keeping Agile principles at the forefront of things, teams can keep improving on the scrum ceremonies and follow them to ensure success. 

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