What is Scrum Ceremonies in Agile? A complete guide

Scrum ceremonies are meetings designed to organize the work of a sprint. Itt allows you to adapt to the changing needs of the software development. Learn more.

What is Agile Scrum Ceremonies?

To answer what Scrum Ceremonies or Meetings are, let us first take a step back.

Scrum is an agile software development framework. It lets you build and deliver value to customers iteratively with a focus on continuous improvement.

The team time-boxes (usually two weeks) a collection of actionable work items and completes them during a Sprint. This helps in constant improvement, allows the team to ship a product increment, and gather actionable feedback quickly.

To ensure that a Sprint runs smoothly and the team doesn't lose focus, multiple meetings, known as Scrum Ceremonies, are held during the lifecycle of a Scrum.

This allows the team to constantly check themselves and see if they're able to embody the 5 scrum values described in the Scrum Guide.

How does the Scrum Ceremony fit into the Scrum Framework?

The lifecycle of the Scrum is divided into the three main categories — Scrum Roles, Scrum Ceremonies (also known as events or meetings) and Scrum Artifacts.

Let's look at each of them.

1. Scrum Roles

Scrum roles define the responsibilities of each person who will be in the Scrum team. Primarily, it will involve these three roles:

- The development team: a group of individuals who have the technical knowledge to build useful software.

- The product owner: who prioritizes product improvements and works with the development team and other stakeholders.

- The scrum master: who facilitates the team’s work through processes.

2. Scrum Artifacts

Scrum artifacts includes three things.

- The product backlog: a ranked list of items that is requested by the customer or a stakeholder in the product.

- The sprint backlog: derived from the product backlog, but contains only the prioritized list of actionable items that will be worked on in the current sprint.

- The product increment: the sum of all the Product Backlog items that was done during a Sprint and the value of the increments of all previous Sprints. What this means is, whatever was the result of the sprint is an increment.

Of course, for it to be considered as an increment, it should first meet the pre-defined definition of done i.e. the end result should be a usable product can be “shipped".

3. Scrum Ceremonies

Scrum ceremonies are organized meetings designed to organize the work of a sprint, so that you can quickly adapt to the changing needs of the software development and stay in sync. By running scrum ceremonies, teams can ensure what they build is useful to customers and ultimately move the needle for the business.

The 4 Scrum Ceremonies

There are four types of scrum ceremonies:

  1. Sprint Planning
  2. Daily Scrum or Daily Standup
  3. Sprint Review
  4. Sprint Retrospective

The good news is, most teams follow a variation of these meetings already. Unfortunately, they are neither structured nor productive.

The internet is overflowing with blog posts that cover the basics from why you should send an agenda before meetings, to how to conclude a meeting on time. But the key to getting maximum bang out of each scrum meeting isn’t just about sending an agenda before the meeting.

With each scrum meeting focussed on achieving a specific goal, everything from who attends it to best practices will vary.

So, how do you make each of your scrum ceremonies productive, effective, and efficient?

Let’s jump in and find out.

Sprint Planning

A Sprint Planning Meeting is held before the Sprint begins. All members of the scrum team are involved in the sprint planning meeting to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

The goal of the sprint planning meeting are:

  • Prioritize user stories in the backlog.
  • Estimate prioritized user stories using story points to know how long each actionable work item will take.
  • Come up with a Sprint goal.
  • Derive a Sprint backlog based on the estimate and the goal.- Align the team on the goal.

This is achieved collaboratively, but it is the product owner's responsibility to come with the highest priorities of the product at least for the next two sprints. This will then be further prioritized to decide which user stories will be worked on in the coming sprint.

The sprint planning meeting is timeboxed to eight hours for a one month sprint.

This allows the rest of the team to ask questions during the Sprint Planning meeting, estimate with better accuracy, chime in with suggestions, and ultimately help the team to come up with sprint goal.

Related helpful resources:

Daily Standup

The Daily Scrum (or Standups) meeting happens every day for 15 minutes after the Sprint begins. It is held to ensure that everyone knows the progress of the Sprint and is always in-sync to enable the team to course-correct if needed.

It is held for all members of the Development Team and is facilitated by the Scrum Master. The product owner may attend this ceremony to get a context of what's happening. If not, the scrum master can keep the product owner updated.

As mentioned, the goal of the daily scrum ceremony is to inspect progress and ensure everyone is progressing towards achieving the sprint goal. That's why it's essential to keep this brief and not have detailed one-to-one conversations. A best practice to follow during daily scrum is to have the scrum tool open with the latest burndown chart, so everyone can see how the team is progressing and try to course correct if needed.

During the Daily Scrum meeting, each member of the development team will answer three main questions:

  1. What did I do yesterday?
  2. What will I do today?
  3. Are there any impediments to continue working?

Related helpful reading:

Sprint Review

The Sprint Review meeting is held once the Sprint is completed, but before it is pushed to production.

This meeting is held by the Development Team, Scrum Master, and the Product Owner, with other project stakeholders invited to take part. If you're a team that's building a product, you might want to invite your beta users as a stakeholder for this meeting and get quick feedback.

With the entire team in one place, the sprint review is the perfect opportunity to showcase your progress and how it will benefit the end user.

In this meeting, the Scrum Team will demonstrate to the stakeholders what they built and achieved in the sprint. The stakeholders who are invited will then give feedback to the team and help the team measure the final product against the initial sprint goal.

The feedback from the stakeholders gives the entire team a feeling that they're working on the most important work and their work moves the needle for the business.

The sprint review meeting is two hours long for a two-week sprint. Similar to other scrum ceremonies, it is the scrum master's responsibility to keep the sprint review productive and ensure that it is completed on time.

Related reading:

Sprint Retrospective

Sprint Retrospective meeting is held after the Sprint review meeting.
The scrum master and the development team participate in the sprint retrospective ceremony with the goal of improving themselves for future sprints.

The scrum master is responsible for bringing all the members together for this meeting. It is optional for the product owner to attend this ceremony, but not mandatory.

For a one month sprint, the sprint retrospective meeting lasts for three hours.

The scrum team reflects on their recently concluded sprint and tries to answer:

  1. What went well during the last sprint?
  2. What could have been done better in the last sprint?
  3. What did not go well in the previous sprint?

A well run sprint retrospective allows the team to openly share what they think could be improved and surface potential problems. This includes talking about work relationships, processes, and tools.

The team usually tries to come up with what they'd like to do differently in the next sprint by trying to understand the above three points. Typically, when trying to come up with actionable takeaways, only one or two aspects are changed in order to help the team improve processes gradually. After all, when rapid changes occur it can be more detrimental than being helpful.

Related helpful reading:

If you're evaluating a tool that support scrum, you might be interested in this agile tools list we put together.