How sprint ceremonies can increase collaboration, communication, and continuous improvement

Some teams who are new to agile think it is a very loose way of doing work. In reality, agile requires a good deal of discipline. There are multiple ceremonies throughout the sprint, each with a specific purpose. These ceremonies provide greater communication and visibility throughout the course of the sprint and allow teams to continue to improve. Here is a simple explanation of each sprint ceremony to help give a high-level understanding of how they are carried out regularly throughout the iteration.

Sprint planning

The sprint planning event is held at the beginning of each sprint for the sprint team to go through the prioritized backlog, discuss user stories, and determine what stories they’ll commit to completing within this sprint.

During the sprint planning meeting, the team discusses the stories that make up the prioritized backlog. It is important to make sure everyone understands what is needed to complete them.  The product owner answers questions the team has about the stories. If needed, they will add any additional information such as requirements, acceptance criteria, and other information needed.

Once the team has a good understanding of the story, they estimate the story size as a team. The team determines their capacity for the sprint. They factor in vacations, holidays, or other time away from working on stories for the sprint. The team then determines how much work they will be able to complete during the sprint and what stories they commit to completing.  

Who attends: Product owner, scrum master, the development team.

When:  At the beginning of each sprint.

Duration: Approximately an hour per week duration of the sprint (a two-week sprint starts with a two-hour sprint planning meeting) (Note: your team may need a longer meeting at the beginning as you get accustomed to these activities).

Daily stand-up

The daily stand-up meeting provides an opportunity for the team members to quickly share information with one another about progress in the sprint. This is not meant to be a status meeting.

Each person answers the following three questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • Do you have any impediments?

The scrum master needs to know about roadblocks and impediments to be able to help remove them for the team, so the team can continue to move forward in their work. The team can also determine if other more in-depth conversations are needed with any other team members based on the information shared. If so, these conversations can happen after the short stand-up meeting, either immediately after or later in the day.

During this daily stand-up, team members do not multitask but remain attentive to what the others share. Each team member is sharing information with all other team members – not just the scrum master. If your team is distributed across various locations, you can conduct the meeting via conference call or video chat. Determine what works best for your team.

Who attends: Product owner, scrum master, and the development team.

When: Every day, typically in the morning.

Duration: 15 minutes or less.

Sprint demo

At the end of each sprint, the team showcases the work completed during the sprint. The team can share this with stakeholders and other teams as appropriate. This allows stakeholders to see any progress and give feedback on the work completed. The work should meet the definition of done for the specific component of work. The team focuses on the business value that is being delivered through the work done.

Who attends: Product owner, scrum master, the development team, and appropriate stakeholders.

When: at the end of the sprint.

Duration: 30 – 60 minutes.

Sprint retrospective

At the end of each sprint, the team holds a meeting to discuss the sprint and identify ways to improve. The team discusses what went well and what could be improved going forward.

The team generally answers the following questions:

  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go well?
  • How can we improve going forward?

The team can then identify any improvement actions to implement for the next sprint. An agile mindset is one of continuous improvement. The sprint retrospective ensures that the team keeps this in mind and actively and collectively seeks ways to continue improving.

It is important for the team to create an environment of support for this event. When sharing information, be honest yet respectful. This will ensure that team members feel safe enough to be open about improvement opportunities.

Who attends: Product owner, scrum master, and the development team.

When: At the end of the sprint.

Duration: 60 minutes

Increased communication and visibility allow for greater flexibility

Each of these ceremonies provides value for the team. They help build trust with the stakeholders, the quality of the product, and continuous improvement for the team. They may feel awkward at first. The team can support one another in doing these well until they become easier with more experience.

 

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