Agile Scrum Ceremonies & Meetings

The Scrum framework is an Agile approach to product development with a focus on people and self-organization. It has specific concepts and practices to help teams deal with complex problems, ensuring the delivery of products with the highest possible value. Scrum specifies the roles of the Scrum team members, as well as the artifacts or tangible outputs during an iterative Scrum cycle or sprint. It also prescribes Scrum events or ceremonies to create regularity and structure.

Read also: Best Scrum Tools & Software in 2021

Table of contents

What Are Agile Scrum Ceremonies?

Like other Agile approaches, Scrum values collaboration and regular feedback to achieve its primary goal of satisfying customers. Agile principles promote interaction between the product team and stakeholders, regular communication, and continuous improvement. Agile Scrum ceremonies are time-boxed meetings that occur during a sprint to achieve a particular purpose for that event. Each scrum event thus helps achieve the overall goal of product development.

The following Agile ceremonies list identifies the four repeating meetings that happen in sequence before, within, and after a sprint cycle:

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

Agile Scrum ceremonies

Back to top

Sprint Planning

A sprint is a fixed-length period in Scrum that provides the opportunity to create valuable products. Sprints occur one after another; a new sprint starts after the conclusion of the previous one. Sprint Planning is a Scrum ceremony that initiates a new sprint. At the beginning of a new sprint, the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and the development team meet for the equivalent of up to two hours per week of sprint. So, if the sprint will take two weeks, then the Scrum team can spend up to four hours on Sprint Planning.

The Product Owner takes the product backlog — a Scrum artifact that lists everything the product needs to be complete — and discusses it with the development team. The Scrum Master facilitates the meeting, and helps the team decide which items to prioritize and how to do it.

The Product Owner provides all the details for the development team to make an effort or story point estimation. The development team breaks down the work items into tasks of no more than two days’ work and commits to completing all the work items on their specific sprint backlog, another Scrum artifact.

Back to top

Daily Stand-up Meeting

After the Sprint Planning, the development team goes to work. A Scrum team is a small team of five to seven developers. At the start of every new work day, the development team and the Scrum Master meet for a maximum of 15 minutes. This daily Scrum meeting uses the term stand-up so each developer can update everyone in a concise way without the details. They inform everyone in the meeting what they did the day before, and what they plan to do that day.

It is also important that the development team members raise any blockers during the stand-up. They should be honest and focus on collaboration rather than competition. The Scrum Master is responsible for finding a way to remove the blockers, or anything that slows down the work of the development team.

Because of remote working and distributed teams, some Scrum teams are turning to video conferencing software for stand-ups. Others use project management software to submit daily check-in reports asynchronously; that way updates are accessible to the rest of the team.

Read more: How to Avoid Blockers on a Project

Back to top

Sprint Review

At the end of a sprint, the development team, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner meet for a maximum of one hour for every week of sprint to hold the third event of the Agile Scrum ceremonies — the sprint review. The Scrum team has the option to invite additional people during this meeting, including other Scrum teams from the same or other projects. The Scrum Master prepares the logistics for this meeting, while the development team can rehearse what they will demonstrate for the audience.

After demonstrating their work to the Product Owner and other stakeholders, the development team listens to the feedback from the audience. Based on this feedback, the Scrum team discusses the overall development of the product, along with other business aspects such as current market developments, user requests, and company goals.

The Product Owner may also decide to update or adjust the product backlog at this point. If the sprint completes a product feature, the team may decide to release a product update. This results in another Scrum artifact, called a product increment.

Back to top

Sprint Retrospective

After the Sprint Review, the development team, Scrum Master, and Product Owner meet for the fourth and last of the sprint ceremonies. The sprint retrospective should last for no more than 45 minutes for every week of sprint. The purpose of the sprint retrospective is to look back and discuss what went well, what did not, and what they could improve upon for their next sprint. Agile principles suggest that teams reflect at regular intervals on how to be more effective and adaptable. This is an occasion for all to be honest about mistakes, be open for suggestions, and offer solutions.

Since Scrum is not only about tools and processes, but also about people and relationships, the Scrum Master can take this opportunity to encourage the development team to express facts as well as feelings. Openness is one of the Scrum values, as well as courage and respect. Team members can express anything about the challenges of performing their work, which is more beneficial than keeping silent about it. The team can also create a plan they are accountable for, and implement improvements they agree are necessary.

Read also: The Beginner’s Guide to Scrum and Agile Project Management

Back to top

Product Backlog

An important Scrum artifact needed at the start of every sprint is the product backlog. Teams use it at every sprint planning session, and teams also adjust it during the sprint review. Some teams add product backlog refinement or grooming to the four Agile Scrum meetings. During this meeting, the whole team allocates time to collaborate on the details of the product backlog items.

Unlike the other four Agile ceremonies, this ongoing process does not have a recommended time-box or frequency, but time-boxing can promote regularity, as with the other ceremonies. It is the responsibility of the Product Owner but collaboration with the whole team can improve the review, revision, and re-prioritization process.

Back to top

Other Agile Ceremonies

Agile gives high value to collaboration, and this is not exclusive with Scrum. For example, there are Kanban ceremonies like cadences, and Lean ceremonies like kaizen events. Interaction, collaboration, and regular feedback are important components of any Agile approach. Ultimately, these practices enable teams to deliver products faster and with better quality.

Jose Maria Delos Santos

Jose is a subject matter expert and member of the writing team for Project-Management.com and Bridge24. He has written hundreds of articles including project management software reviews, books reviews, training site reviews, and general articles related to the project management industry.