Demystifying the Scrum Ceremonies in Agile
The Scrum methodology is centered around a small team with close oversight and flexible strategy, designed to deliver outlined targets faster. According to a survey by the Forbes Insights Scrum Alliance, projects delivered using Scrum recorded a whopping 62% success rate that translates into faster project delivery, better customer experience, and increased product quality when compared with conventional project management processes.
The scrum usually has:
- A cross-functional team of experts whose capabilities complement one another,
- A team lead, the scrum master, who oversees the project, equips the team & eliminates obstacles, known as blockers,
- A specific target
- Short timeframes, sprints, (usually two weeks to a month) within which chunks of the targeted outcome is marked out and executed
- Flexible management and oversight that refreshes the execution strategy at any step of the way to suit contingencies.
Overall, the scrum methodology emphasizes a focus on faster, results-first management that’s designed to change with altering circumstances.
Before we jump on to the scrum ceremonies, it’s important to understand what the sprint is and what the different scrum roles are.
In the scrum context, sprints are short cycles (repeating time durations), usually two weeks, within which a specific portion of the work is completed. The purpose of working in sprints is to break down the target into manageable bits that can be gradually completed over time. It allows teams to ship faster and more frequently while being flexible to change requests.
Who attends Scrum Ceremonies?
Product Owner: curates backlog items and targets that’ll be worked on, oversees the project overall, and serves as a link to clients and other responsible teams working on the project.
Scrum master: creates a list of tasks for each sprint, assigns responsibilities to team members, tracks project progress and spots opportunities for improvement.
Team members: put the plans to work, assist and train each other, relay feedback to the product owner and the scrum master, coordinate work as a team for maximum efficiency.
What are the four Scrum ceremonies?
The Scrum ceremonies are the execution steps involved from planning a sprint to delivering a fully executed project, on time and on budget. They are the building blocks that make up the doing part of the scrum methodology.
That said, a deeper understanding of scrum ceremonies makes it easier to give each step adequate focus that’ll result in successful project delivery.
1. Sprint Planning
The sprint planning ceremony happens at the beginning of every new sprint and it helps the team prepare for the upcoming sprint. Everyone in the team decides what they need to complete in the sprint. The backlog items are prioritized and the team collectively discusses how long it will take to complete all the items in the list (called user stories).
Sub-goals and detailed milestones are outlined for each smaller goal and possibly, a mini-blueprint are created that’ll guide how each sprint is carried out.
At the sprint planning stage, ideally, all stakeholders are available, since this is the master blueprint stage where everyone can see what’s been planned and the role they’ll be playing.
The sprint planning stage is where:
- The outlined user stories are broken down into manageable tasks and team members are assigned specific parts of it, and
- Team members reason together to plan how the outlined action items will be executed,
Ideally, reserve an hour of planning for every week scheduled in a sprint, i.e. a 2-week sprint should require a 2-hour planning session.
2. Daily Scrum
The daily scrum is simply a standup morning meeting where everyone on the team shares their progress and to-dos going forward. Team members share what they did in the previous day and their assigned goals for the day. Likewise, team members point out obstacles they’ve either come across in executing their targets and any blockers they’re anticipating.
No matter what’s going on, the daily scrum is where to offload it. What’s working, what’s not, and what might not work is all laid out so the scrum master can pick up and plan ahead.
Here’s where the scrum master comes in: The scrum master
- Takes notes of the team’s progress and checks to see if everyone is on target to meet the bigger target,
- Takes notes of obstacles encountered by team members in order to tackle them,
- Reinforces the big picture for the team, and,
- Adjusts strategy in case any unforeseen contingencies require it.
The scrum master and all team members.
The daily scrum serves several critical purposes, like:
- Creating an avenue for the scrum master to get updated on project blockers,
- An avenue to analyze and tweak strategy if unforeseen circumstances show up, and
- Driving home the bigger picture so team members can focus on doing their part day-to-day in getting it done.
A daily scrum can last from a few minutes to half an hour. The aim should be to spend just enough time driving home the big picture and building consensus so that time that could be spent working isn’t wasted on unnecessary meetings.
3. Sprint Review
With the sprint completed, the next step in the Scrum methodology, like its name implies, focuses 100 percent on reviewing the work completed in a sprint to ensure the targeted objectives were delivered. The sprint review ceremony is the point where the portion of work delivered by the scrum team is demoed and tested to see how well the parameters of the target were covered.
The sprint review sums up as an iterative session where team members and stakeholders congratulate themselves for their respective parts played in delivering the project on time and on budget. At this stage, all relevant stakeholders can take a 360° look at the delivered project and deliver feedback that’ll be applied in future upgrades.
To a great degree, the sprint review serves as the QA slot where the sprint’s targets are reviewed in depth by stakeholders and all the work done until that point is tested to see whether it meets operational targets.
Project targets that were successfully achieved are ticked off and others that weren’t are looped into the Product Backlog from where they can be pulled as targets for future sprints.
Sprint review participants include the product owner, scrum master, the scrum team, and all relevant stakeholders, including staff from across other teams that had a part in shipping the project.
A sprint review might take as much time as is necessary to completely try out the project worked on, to ensure it does what it’s designed to before being deployed in real-life scenarios.
4. Sprint Retrospective
The sprint retrospective is when you look back and review what worked, what didn’t work quite as well as you’d hoped, and any lessons to pick going forward.
The sprint retrospective serves as the comprehensive review stage where the sprint is analyzed to see if the sprint targets were met, how they were achieved, how well they were achieved, and what could be adjusted for better future outcomes.
It’s important to make one key distinction between sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives, in that while a sprint review takes an intensive view at the product/results delivered in the course of the sprint, the retrospective takes a broader look at the sprint itself, including systems applied, processes employed, and tools used to achieve the endpoint.
The sprint review focuses on the results of the sprint while the retrospective looks to examine how those results were either achieved or not.
The product owner, the scrum master, team members, as well as relevant staff from across the organization who had a role to play in the sprint’s completion.
A sprint retrospective takes ideally 60 – 90 minutes to work through.
The four scrum ceremonies are the stepping stones that power the foundation of Scrum, with which you can deliver higher quality work, faster. The four scrum ceremonies simplify the art of managing work with the agile framework. What’s more, it makes it easier to track progress and build a result-centric work culture that helps your team consistently achieve more.