Meetings are part of the day-to-day engagement activities of a scrum team. Scrum is the earliest and most popular agile framework used for managing product development. Other agile frameworks are Extreme Programming, Dynamic System Development Method (DSDM), Disciplined Agile (DA), Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), etc.
A scrum team comprises the product owner, scrum master, and the development team. They work together to deliver a working product.
Most agile teams are co-located because they require face-to-face communication. However, in some cases, they can have virtual team members.
A scrum team has many scrum meetings. These meetings can be related to sprint planning and other engagement sessions like daily stand-up, retrospective, demonstration, etc. Every meeting has different objectives, such as receiving feedback, planning, knowledge transfer, etc.
All scrum meetings have ground rules, such as fixed meeting duration, no personal comments, and punctuality. In most cases, the scrum master leads these meetings and represents servant leadership.
Roles and Terminology in the Scrum Framework
Before diving into the various scrum meetings, let’s understand some scrum terminologies.
- Scrum Master: This is the team leader who keeps the team focused on its goals and ensures it adheres to agile principles.
- Product Owner: This is a business-oriented team member who works with the team and client to help prioritize the backlog from the business perspective.
- Development Team: This is a self-organizing and cross-functional team that delivers a sprint release.
- Product Backlog: This prioritizing tool helps the team deliver the highest value without creating waste.
- Servant Leader: This is a coach and impediment remover. In most cases, the scrum master plays this role.
- Sprint: This is a time-boxed cycle on which scrum is run to deliver a shippable increment of the product.
- Working Product: This is the product being developed, and feedback is received
Types of Scrum Meetings
The followings are key scrum meetings:
- Daily Stand-up
- Sprint Planning
- Backlog Refinement
#1. Daily Stand-up
This meeting is also called Daily Scrum or Scrum Huddle. The duration of the stand-up meeting is 15-minutes, and the scrum team reviews progress from the previous day, declares activity for the current day, and highlights any encountered or anticipated impediments.
Team members answer the following questions:
- What did we do yesterday?
- What will we work on today?
- What are the impediments?
The meeting has a fixed duration of 15 minutes to stop team members from losing focus and possibly becoming a status meeting. Note that daily scrum is not for reporting status updates. If the team requires more brainstorming, they can use the parking lot (which occurs after the standup).
Any team member can conduct daily scrums. The benefits of this meeting are:
- It helps team members micro commit to each other – Question (2) above addresses this. Since trust is an integral part of agile, team members ensure they deliver as expected.
- It uncovers problems quickly and minimizes waste – Waiting is software waste, and Question (3) above helps achieve this where the scrum master quickly intervenes and removes impediments preventing workflow.
- It ensures a smooth workflow by connecting the past and present with potential barriers. So, the team can look ahead.
- It keeps the team on track and provides transparency to avoid surprises.
One major antipattern for Daily Stand-up is its tendency to turn into a status meeting. The facilitator must avoid focusing on status and pay attention to the three guiding questions above.
The Daily Stand-up improves the flow and visibility, like the Kanban board. It promotes face-to-face communication, which is the most efficient form of communication.
This scrum meeting helps improve the product.
Here, the team asks the questions:
- How do we work better?
- What could be improved?
It is a process-improvement opportunity by inspecting and adapting. One of the agile manifestos says, “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”
Retrospective meetings can be conducted every two weeks, as most iterations take this long. A retrospective is a kaizen concept for continuous improvement using Deming’s plan-do-study-act (PDSA) model.
It is time to act on what is and is not working to improve efficiency. It is not a blame session, but rather an opportunity to look back and improve specific action items.
Retrospective meetings help identify improvements and experiment with them by setting goals.
A retrospective helps organizational learning as the continuous loop involves experimentation. It can even be used to guard against knowledge loss, for example, where a Subject Matter Expert (SME) is contracted to deliver on a task. His wealth of knowledge can be shared by inviting them to the recurring retrospective.
A retrospective can be used for quality purposes. During the meeting, root cause analysis is carried out to address quality issues from customer feedback (after a demonstration).
#3. Sprint Planning
In Sprint Planning, the scrum team plans the next sprint iteration. The team performs detailed planning at the beginning of each iteration, identifying work items they need and the detailed tasks required.
Here the team assigns the tasks to team members. Team capacity must be considered to avoid burnout, poor quality, and poor performance. Sprint Planning has acceptability among all team members since they (particularly the developers) are part of the planning.
Two questions are answered here:
- What is to be done?
- How will it be done?
It is also called Iteration Planning. This meeting helps clarify requirements on the backlog items and acceptance criteria.
Some activities of this meeting are:
- Clarification of work (by the product owner).
- Creating the Definition of Done (DoD) (by the development team).
- Estimating the work (by the development team, since they will be the doer).
The scrum master facilitates the Sprint Planning meeting.
This meeting helps receive feedback from stakeholders, particularly customers. The scrum team demonstrates the new features added to the product and collects feedback. Every sprint ends with a sprint review and then a retrospective.
Frequent demonstrations of product increments help identify threats and opportunities. This is what makes agile different from waterfall.
Positive feedback implies that the development is going in the right direction. Negative feedback is a warning signal and prevents the team from making errors.
#5. Backlog Refinement
In Backlog Refinement, the product owner works with the team to understand a user story and prepares it for implementation. Here, the definition of ready (DoR) is done for each story item. Backlog Refinement is also known as Look-ahead Planning because it prepares the backlog for the next iteration.
This is an important meeting as it helps eliminate the waste of waiting through early detection of missing information or availability of people or resources.
This meeting also helps identify dependencies between work items, which helps prioritize tasks. This reduces the sprint iteration planning sessions. However, it could distract the team from delivering work in the current iteration if not properly handled.
Meetings are a very effective communication channel in project management. In scrum or agile, the above meetings are specially designed to help achieve agility, reduce waste and improve the effectiveness of the scrum team.
- Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), sixth edition, Agile section, pg. 50-55
- Project Management Institute, Choose Your WoW!, pg. 11, 239-244