The Complete Guide to Scrum Ceremonies

Two cornerstones of the Scrum framework for project delivery are adaptability and accountability. Scrum ceremonies, sometimes referred to as Scrum rituals, enable Scrum teams to remain nimble as they move through the project life cycle. Scrum ceremonies are also where team members hold themselves accountable for their contributions to the project.

In this complete guide to Scrum ceremonies, we’re taking an in-depth look at the five unique events that comprise the Scrum framework. We’ll also explore the different Scrum meeting types and offer tips for getting your team more invested in these rituals.

What is Scrum?

Before we dive into the specifics of Scrum ceremonies, let’s clarify what Scrum is in the first place. 

Scrum is a clearly defined project management framework that follows the principles of the Agile manifesto. Agile is often mislabeled as a project management framework or process, but this isn’t the case. Agile is more like a philosophy for guiding product development and other complex or highly fluid projects. 

Essentially, Agile is all about working in shorter time frames and coming together frequently as a team to review what’s been done and make necessary adjustments. Agile is an iterative approach to project management designed to avoid the dilemma of reaching the end of a project and realizing that you veered off course weeks (or even months) ago.

The Scrum framework adheres to these Agile principles by implementing short, set intervals of work called sprints. Sprints typically run for two weeks. At the end of each sprint, the Scrum team comes together to evaluate its output and make needed course corrections. Additionally, Scrum calls for several special meetings throughout the sprint. These meetings are referred to as “ceremonies” or “rituals,” and each type has a particular purpose. 

What are the five Scrum events and Scrum meeting types?

Five distinct events make up a Scrum sprint, four of which are meetings, also known as ceremonies or rituals. The four Scrum ceremonies are:

The sprint itself is also considered a critical Scrum event, where the rubber meets the road, and the actual project work gets done. Let’s take a closer look at each of the four sprint ceremonies and how they fit into the overall Scrum framework. 

1. Sprint planning
As its name implies, the sprint planning ceremony takes place before the sprint commences. This meeting is used to map out the scope, goals, and any issues or concerns for the upcoming sprint. During the sprint planning ceremony, the team determines which items in the project backlog they will work on during the sprint.

Key elements of the sprint planning ritual include: 

  • Defining the scope of the sprint
  • Establishing which tasks will be tackled and who on the team will be responsible for them 
  • Setting concrete goals for the sprint, including deadlines for completion and metrics to determine success
  • Addressing potential roadblocks, issues, or scheduling conflicts that might interfere with the sprint
  • Ensuring that the plans get logged and scheduled in your project management software or tracking system to monitor progress and maintain accountability

When it comes to sprint planning, you’ll want to be mindful of any holidays, special events, or individual days off that may affect the delivery or completion of certain tasks. Sprints typically last two weeks, which allows you just 10 workdays to accomplish the goals you’ve set for the sprint. Additionally, risk management should always play a role in the sprint planning ceremony. Scrum teams are not immune to unforeseen delays and hangups, so make sure to factor in these possibilities when planning.

2. Daily Scrum
The daily Scrum, also called the daily stand-up, is a short daily meeting in which each team member delivers a brief status update. These meetings are intentionally short and sweet, ideally taking only 15 minutes and no more than 30 at the most. The daily Scrum helps ensure that everyone is progressing with their tasks as scheduled and that issues or roadblocks are being addressed. 

The daily Scrum ceremony should be laser-focused on the following four points:

  • What has been accomplished so far
  • What’s currently being worked on
  • What’s up next
  • Any obstacles or problems preventing progress

The daily Scrum must not turn into an in-the-weeds discussion. Otherwise, you risk spending too much of the workday talking rather than being productive. It’s the Scrum master’s job to keep this ceremony on track. If a team member has an issue that needs further attention, schedule some time outside of the daily Scrum to address it. 

3. Sprint review
The sprint review is the first of two post-sprint ceremonies. Because Scrum was originally designed as a software development framework, each sprint was meant to produce a shippable increment of work, such as a new feature. During the sprint review, that new feature is demonstrated and feedback solicited from managers and stakeholders. 

Scrum has since been adopted by project teams across multiple industries and disciplines outside of IT. However, the concept of the sprint remains the same: to produce a specific and defined outcome. The sprint review is when that outcome is demoed or presented to stakeholders for comments and feedback.

4. Sprint retrospective

The sprint retrospective is the second ceremony to take place after a sprint has been completed. It’s also the final ceremony of the Scrum process. During the retrospective ritual, the Scrum team reviews its processes to determine what can be improved in subsequent sprints. Remember, the Agile philosophy calls for consistent assessment and improvement. To that end, the sprint retrospective ritual is one of the most critical of the entire Scrum framework. 

Why are Scrum ceremonies beneficial to projects?

If there’s one thing employees do not want any more of, it’s meetings. Team members spend an average of 21% of their time meeting with coworkers and managers. To make matters worse, those workers feel that 25% of that time is wasted. When meetings are unstructured and unfocused, it only leads to frustration. 

Scrum ceremonies, on the other hand, are highly structured and focused. But what is the most important Scrum ceremony? Well, each Scrum ritual has a distinctly defined purpose: to set expectations, facilitate effective collaboration, and drive measured results. Scrum ceremonies provide the framework for teams to complete their work in a disciplined, orderly manner, as well as to continually refine their processes and sharpen their skills.

How do you get your team enthused for Scrum rituals?

As we’ve seen, each Scrum ritual has a specific purpose, unlike ad hoc meetings that workers are often involuntarily roped into. That doesn’t mean that your team will always be bursting with excitement at the thought of yet another daily Scrum. Even if they’re not necessarily enthused, your team members should be willing participants at each Scrum ceremony

When workers feel that their contributions truly matter and they own their work, enthusiasm often follows. Here are a few tips you can use to help instill a sense of ownership in your team.

  • As the Scrum master, don’t look at your team members during the meeting. Instead, keep your eyes on your notepad or keyboard as you take notes. This is a sort of psychological hack that will force your team members to look at each other as they deliver their daily updates, rather than looking at you and feeling like they are simply reporting to their manager. 
  • Another simple “hack” for signaling that the meeting truly belongs to the team is to arrange the ceremony in a circle, then slowly step out of it. At first, workers will likely still want to look at you as they report, but they’ll quickly realize that they are running the ceremony and reporting to one another. 
  • Instead of asking, “What have you done?” or, “What do you expect to complete today?”, focus your questions on the sprint’s goals. For instance, you could ask, “Are you confident that the team can reach its sprint goal?” or, “Is it clear what needs to be done today for us to reach our goals?”

How to organize your Scrum rituals with Wrike

Organizing and managing your Scrum rituals is much easier with the proper tools in place. Wrike provides several templates and tools to help streamline your Scrum ceremonies. You can access performance metrics, assign action items, monitor progress, and keep all your files and data in one centralized location. Wrike empowers Scrum teams to collaborate more effectively and maximize each sprint.

Ready to make the most of your next Scrum sprint? Start your free two-week Wrike trial today! 

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