Scrum meetings are basically quintessential for all agile projects and conducted periodically based on the sprint phase and play pivotal role in delivering project successfully. The beauty of Scrums is the whole project is not developed and delivered at one go but broken down in pieces iteratively at short intervals with the help of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The onus doesn’t lie on one single person and entire team is responsible for the fortune of project completion, hence it becomes imperative to meet and discuss the progress/impediments of the sprint/project at large. It also gives an insight in what direction the project is heading and do we need to make any amendments in decision making/work product, if so earlier the better and lesser is the risk/impact of the change. One of the biggest achievement is the business stakeholders can be updated with the deliverables for each sprints and get visibility of the project.
Scrum meetings can be broadly classified as Sprint Planning (SP) meeting, Daily Scrum (DS) meeting, Sprint Review (SR) meeting, Sprint Retrospective (SRT) meeting and last but not the least Sprint Backlog Refinement (SBR) meeting. We would put some light on each one of these meetings and try to understand the purpose and which phase of sprint they occur. Also it is crucial to know who all are the participants and play active role in the meeting, thereby adding value in building a successful project and assist in decision making/ provide valuable feedback to proceed through the different phases of sprint.
Each type of Scrum meeting and its purpose & participants are explained in detail as mentioned below:
Sprint Planning (SP)
It is a time bound activity wherein entire sprint team comes together to plan the sprint. The different participants who are active in this are Scrum Master who acts as a facilitator/moderator, Product Owner who gives an idea about the task at hand from product backlog item list and provides acceptance criteria for the same and last not the least the Scrum Team who will give the effort estimation for successfully delivering the committed work products. Sprint planning meeting is held for approximately an hour and generally does not extend beyond it. In the lead up to the sprint planning, the Product owner list down the Product items which are of greatest value and can meet the “Definition of Ready”. To put some quick thoughts on “Definition of ready”, it means firstly all stories should meet certain criteria, secondly there should be a clear defined user, thirdly a proper estimation and lastly clearly defined acceptance criteria. One of the key steps to initiate is to identify if the product backlog items are too large or not. In case if they are too large, skip them as invalid for sprint planning or break them into smaller pieces and confirm if they are complete stories.
The success of the sprint is discussed in the sprint review meeting against the achievements of product backlog items. Based on the assessment of the work product and review meeting details one can understand the completion of the sprint, take a note and list the product items which will be carry forwarded/moved to the next iterative sprint as backlog for the next one in the line.
Daily Scrum (DS)
Daily Scrum can be simply understood as daily update meeting in laymen’s term with an objective to understand the task completed/to be completed and lurking impediments affecting the deliverables. There are basically 3 questions posted for each individual in the scrum stand-up meeting. These questions are What did you do yesterday? ,What will you do today? and Are there any challenges/roadblocks to be addressed?. These 3 questions are critical and they pose more than update to the team in order to understand which piece of work is at what state in the project and when can they expect it to get completed (outstanding status).The reason to ask about the issues to the team players is to let the entire team know about it and take it offline post daily stand-up and discuss at length with the concerned team member. Also the scrum master makes a note of the impediments for any team player and delegate to the concerned person and request for quick resolution.
This meeting is quick one and doesn’t extend for more than 15 mins, it is conducted at the same location every day and scheduled at same time, generally in the morning to set the day’s agenda straight up to the team and head in the right direction to achieve the sprint goals successfully. Team players involved in the sprint meeting are Scrum Master, Product Owner and Scrum Team Members. Other project stakeholders such as sales representative, logistics representatives can attend the meeting but can only be a looker/observer (not speak in the meeting). Once the scrum meeting is over, Scrum master updates the Burn Down Chart to give perspective to the team on the sprint accomplishments as the days progress.
Sprint Review (SR)
Sprint Review meetings are scheduled to discuss the accomplishment of the sprint. It’s a general practice to showcase demo to the team and stakeholders at the end of the sprint. It also gives confidence and helps the team to get direct feedback from the stakeholders regarding the artifacts of the sprint. It’s not a formal display of the deliverables moreover it’s a walkthrough and casual discussion and meeting lasting not more than 2 hours. Participants involved in sprint meeting are Stakeholder and Sponsors, Customer, Scrum Master, Product Owner and Scrum Team Members. As part of the review, the customers (PO) looks at the work committed, the actual work completed by the team, metrics if any (code, test coverage), Demo of the delivered product, and lastly items which are moved to the next sprint and set priority for the same.
The Product Owner puts forward to the team what Product Backlog items are marked as “Done” and what are not marked as “Done”. The team works together on which item to do next, so that the Sprint Review provides valuable feedback for upcoming Sprint Planning. The outcome of the Sprint Review is a refined Product Backlog that defines the tentative Product Backlog items for the In-Line Sprint.
As part of the sprint review, the project is evaluated in regard to sprint goal fulfillment which is set during the sprint planning meeting. Generally, the team accomplishes each product backlog item pulled into the sprint, however it’s more imperative to achieve the final goal of the sprint.
Sprint Retrospective (SRT)
Sprint Retrospectives meeting are basically the heart of Scrum projects. During this meeting, entire team gets together and does “Self-Assessment” on how they are working till date- what went well, what can be improved/worked upon– take it down and implement for next/upcoming sprints. This is the best part of Sprint Retrospective as it gives information/perspective on whether are they heading in right direction and see bigger picture and appreciate individual contributor and discuss achievements of the project. There are more than one way to conduct Sprint retrospective meeting but one of my favorite is the “The Start-Stop and Continue Retrospective”. In a nutshell this meeting states, the scrum master simply asks team members what they would start, stop and continue doing. Few examples of Start Items are showcasing the work product to client early on, performing code inspections etc. Stop items can be the ones which results in wasting of time and efforts such as taking too long for daily stand-ups. Continue items example would involve things resulting in success of sprint to keep the momentum going and further contributing to meeting the sprint goals.
There are certain drawbacks of Sprint Retrospective meeting such as repetitive activities in terms of asking same set of questions at the end of each sprint, team conflicts resulting in creating gap between team players. It’s important for the scrum master to keep it engaging and interesting by sending some brainstorming ideas prior to the meeting, show progress made on previous retrospectives and intervening when he/she observes some disputes getting flared up by providing quick resolutions/ taking it offline.
Sprint Backlog Refinement (SBR)
Sprint Backlog Refinement are nothing but Product Backlog Grooming/Up scaling. It basically focuses on updating backlog, re-arranging product items to be in “Ready” state, adding new stories and removing stories which will never be done, breaking bigger piece of work into smaller ones and understanding the need of Definition of Done/Ready. This meeting occurs near the end of one sprint to ensure the backlog is ready for the upcoming sprint. Importance of Sprint Backlog Refinement is that it increases the efficiency of the team by reducing uncertainty, refinement helps in stories to be estimated easily, developed and tested. If conducted efficiently it reduces the time and effort required in Sprint planning meeting resulting in good and effective sprint planning meeting. They can act as checkpoint rather than meeting to resolve issues. In case, refining the backlog is not conducted, sprint planning activity will result in an adequate amount of queries and/or skepticism. SBR meeting doesn’t need participation of the entire team and only Product owner & Scrum master are sufficient to take it forward.
As we have seen all the scrum meetings play an important role in any agile projects and its success can be determined by the coordination and collaboration of project team members, thereby resulting in achieving the sprint goals and meeting client/customer expectations successfully with aplomb and quality work products.
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