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By Pavel Kukhnavets

Scrum Ceremonies

Quick overview of the most important Scrum events

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Scrum is a fine-tuned mechanism that allows teams to constantly release value for customers while staying flexible to quickly respond to possible changes. The method needs special artifacts and ceremonies to maintain this mechanism.

The ceremonies in Scrum are not your regular team meetings. Why? Have a little patience – you will learn more about this below.

The Scrum Guide describes 5 Scrum framework events that are very specific meetings with clearly defined goals, participants, and duration frames. Without these ceremonies, Scrum simply does not work.

In this post, we propose you an overview of the five essential sprint events and describe how they can help your team stay agile and efficient. Let’s take a look at these Scrum ceremonies types right away!

What Are Ceremonies in Scrum?

Scrum ceremonies are important elements of the Agile software delivery process. These important events are not just meetings for meetings. They provide the framework for Scrum teams to get work done in a structured manner. The ceremonies also help to set expectations, motivate teams to collaborate, and drive results.

If you do not know how to manage Agile ceremonies appropriately, they can overwhelm calendars and drown out the value they are intended to provide.

Often, when Scrum teams ignore certain ceremonies (for example, because they do not see the value in them), it may indicate that they abandon the Agile principles.
Scrum Sprint

The five Scrum ceremonies are:

But before diving into the world of Scrum sprint ceremonies, it is worth recollecting some basic info about Scrum roles and Scrum artifacts to better understand the essence of each event.

What are Scrum Roles?

As you probably know, there are three roles in Scrum:

The role of a Product Owner

The Product Owner (PO) decides how the product will look like and what features it will contain. He/she is expected to incorporate stakeholder feedback to build the highest value product increments every sprint. POs maintain the product backlog and ensure that everyone knows the priorities.

The main activities performed by the Product Owner include:

  • Expressing product backlog items.
  • Ordering the items in the product backlog to reach the goals.
  • Ensuring that the product backlog is visible and transparent.
  • Ensuring that the team understands the backlog items.
  • Optimizing the value of the development team’s work.

Like Scrum Masters, POs vary in their specific mix of skills and qualifications.

The role of a Scrum Master

A Scrum Master (SM) assists the team in performing at their highest level. He/she protects the Scrum team from any internal and external distractions, holding team members accountable to their working agreements, Scrum values, and the framework itself.

  • The common features of Scrum Masters include:
  • Coach. SM facilitates meetings and conversations.
  • Agile advocate. SM reinforces Agile principles throughout the company.
  • Protector. SM works with interferences.
  • Servant leader. SM leads without authority and puts the team first.

Scrum Masters usually:

  • Selects techniques for effective product backlog management.
  • Ensures that all the goals and scope are understood by everyone on the team.
  • Understands how to practice agility.
  • Helps the team to understand the need for concise backlog items.
  • Ensures the PO knows how to arrange the product backlog to maximize value.
  • Facilitates Scrum ceremonies.

The role of the development team

A development team accomplishes the work set by the Product Owner. The team is structured and empowered enough to organize and manage their own work.

The core characteristics of the development team include:

  • The team is self-organized. No one tells them how to turn the product backlog into Increments of potentially releasable functionality.
  • Development team members have no titles regardless of the work being performed by the individual.
  • They are cross-functional.
  • There are no sub-teams in the development team.
  • Development team members may have specialized skills and areas of focus, but accountability belongs to the development team as a whole.

The ideal size for the team is 3-9 people, not including the PO and SM. Any smaller team could not accomplish enough each sprint. Any larger team would have challenges with communication.
Ceremonies in Scrum

Quick Introducing to Scrum Artifacts

There are three artifacts defined in Scrum: product backlog, sprint backlog, and product increment. Scrum teams implement these artifacts to help manage work.

Product backlog

A product backlog is an ordered list of everything that is known to be needed in a product. It is never complete and you should constantly evolve it.

Sprint backlog

A sprint backlog is everything that a Scrum team commits to reaching in a particular sprint. Only the development team can add anything to this backlog after its creation. In case when the development team needs to drop an item from the sprint backlog, they negotiate it with the PO.

Product increment

The Scrum team must complete a product increment (that is potentially releasable) at the end of every sprint.

Burndown charts and tracking progress

A sprint burndown chart is not an official artifact in the Scrum system, however, it is used by many teams to communicate and track progress toward the sprint goal.

The main purpose of the sprint burndown chart is to help Agile teams gauge whether they will complete the work of a sprint. The charts also reinforce the Scrum values of commitment, focus, openness, and transparency.

Now it’s time to come back to Agile Scrum events.

What Are the Five Scrum Ceremonies?

1. Backlog Grooming

Participants: PO, SM, development team.

When to arrange: from time to time as needed

Duration: no time boxes

The main idea:

The backlog grooming or refinement is the only Scrum ceremony that doesn’t have a defined time box or frequency. However, the refinement is a critical responsibility of the PO with the help of the Scrum team aimed to add new items to the list and order them based on their priorities. All the outdated, non-valuable, or redundant items should be removed from the backlog to keep it clean and actionable.
Scrum meetings

2. Sprint Planning

Participants: PO, SM, development team.

When to arrange: the very beginning of a sprint.

Duration: an hour per week of iteration.

The main idea: 

Sprint Planning meetings are usually run by Scrum teams, however, Kanban teams also plan (but they are not on a fixed iteration schedule with formal Sprint Planning).

This ceremony sets up the Scrum team for success throughout the sprint. Before the meeting, the Product Owner should have a prioritized product backlog. The team will discuss each item and collectively estimate the effort involved. Then the development team will make a sprint forecast outlining how much work they can complete from the product backlog.

Sprint Planning is a great opportunity to flesh out intimate details of the work that needs to get done. It stimulates discussions, gathers consensus on the plan of action, and increases the team’s chances of success meeting the commitments of the sprint.

3. Daily Stand Up

Participants: PO, SM, development team.

When to arrange: daily, typically in the morning.

Duration: 15 minutes. There is no need to book a conference room and conduct the meeting sitting down. Standing up is aimed to keep the ceremony short.

The main idea:

The meeting is widely used among both Scrum and Kanban teams.

Daily Stand-Ups help to quickly inform everyone in the team about what’s going on. It is not a detailed status meeting. It should provide a light and fun tone but be rather informative.

During the ceremony, each attendee should answer the following questions:

  • What did I complete yesterday?
  • What will I work on today?
  • Am I blocked by anything?

No one strives to be a team member who is constantly doing the same thing and not making progress.

If you have a remote team, you may use videoconferencing or group chat to close the distance gap.

4. Iteration Review

Participants: PO, SM, development team, (project stakeholders – optional).

When to arrange: at the end of a sprint.

Duration: 30-60 minutes.

The main idea:

The Review meeting should be organized by Scrum and Kanban teams. For Kanban-focused groups, the Review should be aligned with team milestones rather than on a fixed cadence.

The aim of the ceremony is to showcase the work of the team.

The format of the event may look like a “demo Fridays, or be more formal. The review is the time for the team to celebrate their accomplishments, demonstrate work finished, and get feedback from stakeholders.

5. Retrospective

Participants: PO, SM, development team.

When to arrange: at the end of an iteration.

Duration: 1 hour.

The main idea:

Scrum and Kanban teams both practice this Agile meeting based on a fixed cadence.

As the Agile methodology is about getting rapid feedback to make the product better, so the Retro meeting helps teams to understand what worked well–and what didn’t.

The ceremony is not just a time for complaints without action. Retrospectives must be used to find out what’s working so the team can continue to focus on those areas (as well as what’s not working and use the time to find solutions and develop an action plan).
Scrum meetings

How to keep Scrum events destructive-free and effective?

Designating a Scrum Master is the right way to ensure your sprints and ceremonies are as efficient as possible. The SM will ensure the team stays organized and on task during its sprint. He/she will coordinate meetings, keep everyone on the same page and choose the appropriate work management software to help track questions, accountabilities, and progress.

Scrum Masters do not have direct authority over other team members, they act as servant-leaders who work alongside product developers. So consider them not as direct supervisors in a hierarchical structure but as coaches or guides.

Improve your team’s evolving with Scrum ceremonies

The Scrum process will be defective without essential Scrum ceremonies. Do not ignore them just because your team is short on time.

Agile ceremonies will empower any Scrum team to plan, maintain, and learn from sprints, ensuring continuous improvements and steady productivity.

Conclusion

Every Scrum ceremony from the grooming session to the Retro meeting serves a highly valuable and unique purpose. Only together as a whole, they provide Agile Scrum teams with unique opportunities for growth and success.

No matter you are a collocated team or a company with remote workers, striving to make the Scrum ceremonies efficient, try to apply an efficient project management tool such as Hygger to empower your meetings and give your team members new opportunities and strengths.

Get the most value out of your Agile meetings and Scrum artifacts and ceremonies, keeping them sharp and always on-point!