Scrum Ceremonies

Scrum team during one of the four scrum ceremonies

If you’re new to the Agile approach, or the Scrum methodology in particular, you might not know much about Scrum ceremonies. Here’s an overview of the four essential Scrum ceremonies and how they can help your product development team stay agile and efficient.

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What are the four Scrum ceremonies?

Scrum ceremonies—also known as Scrum events, Scrum meetings, or Agile ceremonies—are a key component of the Scrum process.

The four Scrum ceremonies are:

Sprint planning occurs before the sprint, daily stand-up meetings take place during the sprint, and the review and retrospective come after the sprint has ended.

These four Scrum ceremonies form the backbone of the Scrum methodology. Proper planning, check-ins, and reflection empower teams to stay efficient, motivated, and mindful of their progress. Plus, reviewing each sprint’s challenges, accomplishments, and lessons helps make subsequent sprints more effective. Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the Scrum ceremonies.

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Sprint planning

If your team starts sprinting without proper planning, everyone will end up running in different directions. The first Scrum ceremony—sprint planning—creates a road map for the upcoming product development sprint.

The sprint planning session doesn’t have to be time-consuming; an hour or two should be enough to get everyone on the same page for a one- or two-week sprint. The Scrum team, the product owner, and the Scrum Master should be present at the planning session.

During the sprint planning session, the team consults the backlog, which is a list of all desired features and bug fixes that the team can select from as they determine what to accomplish during the sprint.

During the sprint planning meeting, the Scrum team will estimate how many items from the backlog they can complete with their existing resources. The Scrum Master facilitates the meeting, the product owner clarifies the details and requirements of the backlog items, and the team members define the work and effort necessary to complete each backlog item chosen for the sprint. A centralized work management platform may be used to organize the full backlog as well as each individual sprint.

Daily stand-up

Stand-up meetings—also called the daily Scrum—ensure the sprint is proceeding effectively. Traditionally, Scrum Masters keep the daily Scrum to no longer than 15 minutes. These stand-up meetings are informal gatherings designed to help identify any roadblocks and allow team members to describe their current tasks, goals, and obstacles.

Ideally, the daily Scrum should take place at the beginning of the day with the Scrum Master, product owner, and complete Scrum team. While many teams choose to have their daily meetings in-person, remote get-togethers are also effective.

One way to prevent daily Scrums from exceeding 15 minutes is to ensure everyone is on the same page before the meetings begin. Many Scrum teams use a modern work management platform to help track each component’s progress. If the Scrum Master or product owner notices that someone is falling behind, they can ask about the issue even before the daily meeting.

The daily Scrum keeps each team member accountable. While leaders should never belittle or embarrass team members at standups, the requirement to report progress each day can motivate developers to stay efficient and productive.

Sprint review

After the team has completed the sprint, it’s time to meet with the stakeholders in a sprint review meeting (also called an “iteration review”). The Scrum team, Scrum Master, and product owner meet with other teams, managers, and executives to showcase what they accomplished during the sprint. Ideally, the sprint review allows each team member to participate. The review’s tone should be enthusiastic and positive—it’s an excellent opportunity to celebrate the team’s accomplishments.

Of course, Scrum teams should also solicit feedback from stakeholders. In many cases, teams may need to change or update the products they built during the sprint. Revision requests aren’t a bad thing; a continually iterative, evolving process is the essence of the Scrum philosophy.

The sprint review should last as long as necessary to fully demonstrate the team’s new technology and have a productive conversation with stakeholders. After the sprint review, Scrum teams move on to the sprint retrospective.

Sprint retrospective

The final Scrum ceremony is the sprint retrospective. During this last phase, the development team, the Scrum Master, and the product owner meet to discuss the sprint’s successes, challenges, and insights. The retrospective usually lasts around an hour.

Using feedback from stakeholders and the Scrum Master, the team should identify how it can improve its processes to have more effective sprints in the future. Agility and adaptability are core values of the Scrum process, so teams should strive to identify potential improvements without blame or judgment.

How to keep your Scrum ceremonies effective.

One way to ensure your Scrum sprints and ceremonies are as efficient as possible is to designate a Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is a team member responsible for ensuring the team stays organized and on task during its sprint. Scrum Masters coordinate daily Scrums and ensure everyone is on the same page. Some Scrum Masters rely on work management software to help track questions, accountabilities, and progress.

Despite being called a “master,” Scrum Masters don’t have direct authority over other team members. Instead, the Scrum Master is a servant-leader who works alongside product developers. You can think of a Scrum Master as more of a coach or a guide than a direct supervisor in a hierarchical structure.

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Keep your team improving with Scrum ceremonies.

Scrum ceremonies are a vital part of the Scrum process. Don’t neglect them just because your team is short on time. According to the Scrum Alliance, 86% of respondents have initial planning sessions, 87% hold daily Scrum meetings, and 81% take the time for a Scrum retrospective. Scrum ceremonies empower teams to plan, maintain, and learn from sprints, ensuring a cycle of continuous improvement and steady productivity.