A Scrum Ceremony? Is this a wedding or something?

Posted By: Lance Dacy

Ceremonies. Pretty fancy word when talking about software development right? Maybe we should walk around saying we are headed to the next ceremony all the time, but we think that would be weird. So from now on, let’s call these ceremonies…meetings. So what are all these meetings about? That is what this blog post is going to explain. 2 quick notes before we dive in… 1) There are only 4 meetings that are prescribed in Scrum with most implementations adding a fifth. 2) These meetings occur to facilitate collaboration, inspection, and adaptability to the realities seen throughout a project.

This is a meeting that occurs before an iteration begins. The team negotiates with the Product Owner the items that will be worked during the iteration. Once the negotiation has ended, the Product Owner agrees to not change the items before the iteration is complete (2-4 weeks). The team can then focus on delivering the items without interruption.

Daily Scrum
This meeting occurs at the same time each day of the iteration in order to answer 3 questions from each member of the team:

  1. What did you accomplish yesterday?
  2. What are you going to accomplish today?
  3. Are there any impediments to your progress (or do you need any help)?

Many people confuse this meeting as a status meeting; each person reports what they did or did not do. It is quite the contrary, the point of this meeting is in fact synchronization to ensure we are all working on the right part of the system and are collaborating for maximum efficiency. Each day we get to inspect and adapt the project to the realities discovered. Software development is complex, we can’t possibly know everything we need to do, so as we learn, we report and adapt.

This meeting occurs after the last day of the iteration in which the team demonstrates “working software” to the Product Owner. He reviews each item the team worked on and either accepts or rejects the work. The point of Scrum is to deliver working software after each iteration, if the team did not complete the work, we do not present it at review and simply drop the item for prioritization in an upcoming iteration.

After the review, the team will meet and discuss:

  1. What did they like about the previous sprint that they want to keep doing?
  2. What would they change if they had to do the sprint all over again?

At that point, we write down each team member’s feedback and use dot voting to determine which specific items we will commit to doing better the very next sprint. Naturally we can’t commit to everything, but the point is to keep a “backlog” of these improvement items and over time try to complete each item we wish to see changed.

Each week, the Product Owner and the team meet for 2 hours to go over the list of items to be completed. The intent of this meeting is to allow the team to be thinking about solutions before these items actually get committed to an iteration, breaking up large items into smaller consumable items for the iteration, and for the team to provide feedback to the Product Owner of technical dependency that might affect the item’s priority. The challenge to the Product Owner is to be 1.5 iterations ahead so that at any given time we have a well groomed list of items to complete that a new team could work on upon inception.

Lance Dacy is the Director of Project Management and acting Scrum Master for Fellowship Technologies. He has been with Fellowship Tech since the beginning (2004) and has held numerous roles ranging from SQL developer , Reporting Manager, Director of Customer Services, and since 2008, his current role in Product Development. After our teams choice to use Scrum as our process management framework, Lance founded and continues to co-lead the DFW Scrum User Group to assist the Dallas area in sharing the collective wisdom of the crowds using or trying to use Scrum.

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