What are Scrum Ceremonies?
Scrum development consists of a variety of roles, artifacts, and events. An event or “ceremony” is simply a regular meeting on an agile project, such as the sprint planning meeting, the daily stand-up, the sprint review, and the sprint retrospective. These Scrum ceremonies foster team collaboration and make sure that there’s a constant line of communication among the Scrum team members through the product or software development life cycle. We will discuss each of the ceremonies in turn:
- Release planning
- Sprint planning
- Sprint review
- Sprint retrospective
- Daily Scrum or stand up
- Backlog grooming or refinement
It is imperative that a roadmap exists so that the sequences of releases can be identified and the backlog items are appropriately refined and mapped to the releases and sprints. This release planning activity precedes sprint planning but serves as a good foundation to ensure that the required stories are in the backlog to deliver on the product roadmap.
Collaborating with the team, the product owner may extend the release planning with the continuous backlog refinement activity. This process will help identify any stories from the team’s delivery angle that otherwise would be missed if the release planning is not done. Collectively, these releases then unleash the story the product development team can use to report to the project stakeholders.
Contrary to release planning, sprint planning focuses on the work committed by the team to be done immediately after planning is completed. It is important to note the keyword – immediately. Generally speaking, sprints are expected to start immediately after the planning is done and the previous iteration ends because the team maintains the operating cadence and also has the context of work already delivered.
Using the product backlog, teams start with the highest priority items and determine how to achieve this objective. A good tip when sprint planning is to do the due diligence and only start with items that are ready. Also, remember that planning is a short process, so don’t get bogged down in the details. Just get to work on meeting the objectives. Keep the plan collaborative. The team should also ask the product owner and stakeholder questions.
The daily standup is where the team members discuss their progress confirming their commitments to the sprint goals and risks impeding their progress. These should ideally be 15-minute meetings where everybody in the Scrum team talks about the tasks they’ll be working on during the day and share any roadblocks or difficulties they’re facing. There’s no need to make this daily Scrum meeting longer, as there are other meetings such as sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives to explore more complex topics.
Please note that the ownership is for the team members to discuss the progress. This daily standup is not a status check meeting where the product owner or other team member acts as a status coordinator. Another popular activity that happens in the daily standup is an update on the burn-up, burndown, and velocity charts.
The review is where the team demonstrates the product increment on the work completed. While the product owner can review, accept, and even release the work product throughout the sprint, the review presents an opportunity for the team to demonstrate the functionality. These “show-and-tell” review sessions are recommended for the business stakeholders beyond the delivery team.
Based on the product increments delivered, new items may be added to the product backlog. However, the accountability rests with the product owner to accept the work completed or reject it based on the definition of done.
The sprint retrospective meeting gives the Scrum team a space to reflect on the last sprint and determine what went well and wrong. Stakeholder and customer feedback is also gathered in order to prioritize user stories and improve product performance.
The goal of the retrospective is not to identify the person observing the improvements and suggesting the recommendations but to capture the improvements and recommendations. To facilitate this goal, many techniques can be utilized.
One common approach is to break the discussion down into three areas:
- Start Doing – activities that we should begin doing to make future sprints better
- Stop Doing – activities that are doing, that are adding no value and should be discontinued
- Keep Doing – activities that we are doing, that add value, that we should keep doing
Backlog Grooming or Backlog Refinement
One of the key tenets of the agile manifesto is to "embrace change", in contrast to traditional methodologies, you deliberately request customer and end-user feedback as frequently as possible (at the very least, after each completed release or sprint of work is delivered) so that things that have been learned during the sprint are used to change the priorities of the next items in the backlog. This process is called backlog grooming or backlog refinement.
For example, you may have a high-level roadmap with some features that make sense from a market standpoint. However, as you start to deliver features, you realize that your initial customers really need other features that you hadn't thought of, solving business problems that you didn't know existed.
With an agile approach, you should use this feedback to reassess what's in your backlog:
- Are there things we plan on developing that we now realize are not valuable, and should be removed from the backlog?
- Are there new items (features or defects) that we need to address that were never in the original backlog?
- Should we change the priority of what's in the backlog as the relative business value of the items has changed in our understanding?
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