One of the commonly used practices of Agile software development is Scrum. Scrum is a framework that incorporates the entire software development cycle in iterations called “sprints” which spans from 2-4 weeks.
Scrum has meetings coined as ceremonies that serve as checkpoints of development progress. These ceremonies are: sprint planning, daily standup meeting, backlog refinement, retrospective and review.
In this article, we will discuss what these ceremonies are for and how it can be effectively carried out. It is important that these ceremonies are productive as it marks the start and end of development time. These ceremonies are also venues to identify areas for improvement and apply action items.
The first ceremony in a sprint is called Sprint Planning. This meeting aims to identify the work which the team will do in the sprint. It is facilitated by the Scrum Master and led by the Product Owner. The Product Owner shares the goal of the sprint and presents the features that is expected to be delivered when the sprint ends.
The Product Owner should present the goal clearly for the sprint. The meeting should answer the questions: What are the features or activities that you want to be executed in the next sprint? Why do we want to develop it? Are there any challenges that may block the development?
It is necessary for the teams to know since they will plan their implementation strategy according to the goals presented. It is a very crucial attribute in development as it determines where the development will focus.
It is important that the Product Owner is prepared for any questions and inquiries that the team may ask during the meeting. Also, negotiations can occur during the planning. There may be decisions that need to be made regarding the product. The product owner should be clear with the priorities he or she wants to be developed for the coming sprint.
Even if the Product Owner is the one leading the discussion, the scrum master is still the one who facilitates the meeting. The scrum master should be attentive on how the discussion is flowing. He or she should be able to steer the team back to the main agenda in case there are distractions or out of topic discussions. Also, the scrum master should be mindful of the time and the productivity of the meeting. He or she must ensure that sprint goal and priorities are presented well and understood by the team.
The team, at the same time, should be an active participant in the meeting. They are the ones who will do the work therefore it is important if they voice out their opinions especially in terms of capacity and any challenges they foresee.
Daily Standup Meeting
The daily standup meeting aims to get the development updates from the team on a daily basis. It requires 15 minutes for the entire team to answer the following questions: What I did yesterday? What will I do today? Are there any impediments to my work? This will help other team members know what their teammates are doing and their progress in the sprint.
During this meeting, the scrum master plays a very important part. The role of the scrum master is to ensure that the discussion is finished within fifteen minutes so it may not cause much of an impact in their development time.
Participation and attention is a crucial factor in this meeting. The team should focus on sharing their updates; nothing more, nothing less. Further discussions on any of the shared updates can be done after everyone in the team managed to provide one. This will help maximize the time of other team members in development as it can be a discussion between two or three members of the team.
The backlog refinement is where future work and its acceptance criteria is discussed. This is a good venue to understand the purpose of the upcoming features to be developed. In this ceremony, the teams inform the product owner on their estimates on how much effort development will take.
For it to be effective, the team should be actively participating and voicing out their concerns. The team is encouraged to ask questions, negotiate and clarify the scope of work with the product owner. Both the business and development side should he aligned with the capacity, priorities, timeframe, deliverables and potential risks for the upcoming sprint. The scrum master ensures that this meeting is productive and efficient.
The retrospective meeting occurs usually during the last day of sprint. The goal of the ceremony is to talk about how the previous sprint went. The team discusses what went well, identify areas for improvement and strategize on the action plan to do better on the next sprint.
It is the scrum master’s task to facilitate the retrospective. The scrum master should be able to set the tone by promoting a safe environment for discussion. He or she can be creative on how to conduct the meeting so that the team members will feel comfortable to open up about their opinions and observations.
The development team presents their sprint deliverables to the business stakeholders during the sprint review. The purpose of this ceremony is to solicit feedback from the business to confirm if what was developed meets their target market needs. The Product Owner leads the meeting while the Scrum Master helps facilitate the discussion.
Stakeholders should be given a clear overview on the work done during the sprint. This is to set expectations and have focused discussions on what was done in the previous sprint only. It is encouraged for the team to maximize the presence of the stakeholders and ask questions or clarifications.
The Scrum ceremonies are straightforward and only consumes around eight (8) hours in a sprint. While it is easy to do, it is challenging to make it productive and efficient. This is where the roles of the product owner, scrum master and the development team comes in. Effectiveness comes from all these roles performing, collaboration and clear communication.
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