How To Make Your Team More Productive with Scrum Ceremonies

by Alex Wyatt in

Scrum ceremonies are an integral part of Scrum, and they can be crucial in the smooth flow of your team. But it can be hard to figure out how to best implement each of them, so we're here to help you out—and show you how you can get ScrumGenius to do the hard work for you.

What is Scrum?

Simply put, Scrum is a methodology within Agile that helps teams quickly deliver values by frequently inspecting their product. This occurs in fixed-length sprints, each of which usually lasts about a week or two.

Though Scrum is useful for all kinds of teams, it is especially favored by software development teams. For a more complex explanation of Scrum and Agile, read our Agile vs Scrum blog post.

The Benefits of Scrum

Scrum comes with many benefits to help you and your team. For one, it helps boost transparency both between team members and between the team and its shareholders or clients through frequent meetings. This can keep everyone up-to-date and eliminate any problems that can arise from a breakdown in communication.

This in turn allows for greater accountability within the team. Because everyone decides on the upcoming sprint's tasks collectively, everyone knows what they're supposed to work on and can work together to get it done.

Finally, Scrum is also great for teams that require flexibility in their development cycle. The short length of successful sprints and the frequent feedback allowed in meetings make it easy for your team to incorporate any changes and new tasks that may come up as their work progresses.

What's Involved in Scrum?

There are many specific roles, responsibilities and meetings within the Scrum framework. Though this post will focus on the ceremonies—which we'll discuss a little later—there are also several important roles and responsibilities you should know about.

Scrum has three main roles: Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Scrum Team Member. The Product Owner conveys their vision of the product to their team and provides guidance based on any business requirements, while the Scrum Master coaches their team and organizes all meetings. Lastly, the Scrum Team Members collaborate together on tasks to meet goals.

The Scrum Cycle also has a specific series of steps:

  • Product Backlog: the Product Owner and Scrum Team meets to prioritize items in the project.
  • Sprint Planning: the Product Owner presents the top items from the product backlog and presents them to their team in a meeting; the team then chooses the tasks to work on during the sprint.
  • Backlog Refinement: the Scrum Team and Product Owner meet once the sprint is over to prepare the product backlog for the next sprint.
  • Daily Standup: the team meets during the sprint to talk about their goals, completed tasks and blockers.
  • Sprint Review: the team presents the work they have completed throughout the sprint.
  • Sprint Retrospective: the team reflects at the end of each sprint on how the process is working and discusses any changes that need to be made.

We'll discuss Sprint Planning, Daily Standups, Sprint Reviews and Sprint Retrospectives in more detail in the next sections.

All About Sprint Planning Meetings

Sprint Planning meetings occur before each sprint and, like the name suggests, center on planning out what will happen during the sprint itself.

In a Sprint Planning meeting, the Product Owner will present the top items pulled from their product backlog to their team. The Scrum Team will then choose which of those action items they will complete during the sprint and mark them down in the sprint backlog.

The Benefits of Sprint Planning Meetings

Sprint Planning Meetings have some great benefits. For one, it gives everyone on the team the opportunity to communicate and choose goals for the sprint, allowing for increased team cohesiveness and effective communication. It can also improve team morale and satisfaction, as everyone is involved in the process and can help influence it.

Likewise, running sprint planning meetings can be hugely beneficial within the Scrum process as they help focus the Scrum team on their goals during the sprints themselves, keeping your team on track and boosting productivity.

How to Run Your Best Sprint Planning Meetings

Here are our top tips on how to run your best sprint planning meetings.

Break Up Larger Tasks

If the tasks you assign to your team for the sprint are too big, it can drag down productivity and lower morale—especially if you run into any blockers. Instead, break down these big tasks into smaller, more digestible chunks to keep your workflow steady.

Leave Room for Error

Sometimes, the tasks you assign might not end up getting accomplished. This can simply be due to over-assigning or overestimating the time required, or life can simply get in the way. Make sure you're not assigning too many tasks to your team, but also make sure that if something can't be completed during the sprint, you can easily cancel that task or move it to the next sprint.

Stick to Time Limits

Sprint planning meetings can have a tendency to go over set time frames. Select a time limit for your meeting and try and stick to it; discuss important tasks first and get them out of the way, and then move to smaller ones if you have time to spare.

All About Daily Standup Meetings

Daily standup meetings are an essential part of scrum, and perhaps the most well-known.

In a daily standup, the scrum team meets every day during the sprint to discuss their completed tasks, goals and any blockers that might have popped up. This helps Scrum Teams as well as their Product Owners and shareholders/clients to stay on track in terms of work to be done and to tackle any issues that may arise efficiently.

Daily standups are an important part of many teams' workflow as they can help boost communication and collaboration between coworkers, as well as help familiarize team members with each other. Because of this, they can be especially helpful for distributed or remote teams who can't meet in person.

The Benefits of Daily Scrum Meetings

There are many benefits to holding these daily standups. For example, they can be incredibly helpful in helping your team stay organized. Not only do these meetings help keep everyone up-to-date; but they can also help you keep a written record of work completed and any problems encountered, giving teams something to look back on and compare themselves to.

Furthermore, meeting daily can also help your team members feel closer to one another, boosting morale and making collaboration and communication within the team even easier.

How to Run Your Best Daily Scrum Meetings

Here are some of our top tips for running successful daily standups.

Use a Question Template

To keep your daily standups on track, you'll need to have a clear idea of what to discuss and what information you need. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have a set list of questions to ask for every standup.

For many teams, this may come as a variation of the same set of questions: what you're currently working on, what you're going to be working on next, and what your blockers are. You can base your question template off of this, or customize it even more to fit your team.

For more ideas on what to include in your question templates, visit our templates index page.

Keep a Strict Schedule

One of the most common problems teams encounter when implementing daily standups is letting them go on too long and becoming unfocused.

The best way to circumvent this is by keeping to a schedule and strict time length for each standup. Make sure you hold standups at the same time each day, allowing employees the chance to prepare, and that you try to keep your standups short; for many teams, this ends up being around 15-30 minutes.

Prepare For Your Meetings

The best way to optimize your standup meetings is to prepare for them beforehand. This allows employees to figure out what they need to say beforehand, eliminating waffling and keeping meetings shorter and more productive.

Likewise, it may also be helpful to take notes during the meetings themselves, so everyone has a record of what happened and what they still need to work on for the next standup and track their own progress.

All About Sprint Review Meetings

Sprint reviews give Scrum teams the opportunity to look back on completed sprints and the work they have completed.

In a Sprint Review meeting, the Scrum Master, Scrum Team, and Product Owner will meet to present the product to any stakeholders and will receive feedback on their progress in return.

The Benefits of Sprint Reviews

There are many important benefits to holding sprint reviews. First and foremost, they help foster communication and collaboration between team members by keeping everyone on the team on the same page and involved in the process.

They also have specific benefits related to stakeholder engagement, as they allow the Scrum team to collaborate with stakeholders and get their input and feedback on the development process.

Finally, running sprint reviews helps you maximize the quality of your product of your sprints. By both looking back on the sprint process and incorporating feedback from team members and stakeholders, they allow you to figure out how to refine your process and do better work.

How to Run Your Best Sprint Reviews

Here are some of our favourite tips on running great sprint reviews.

Communicate Your Responsibilities

Communicating your goals and progress with other team members helps ensure everyone is on the same page and that the team is working well together and moving forward as a whole. Everyone is working on their own tasks, but this also allows for room for people to collaborate on tasks and work together.

Give Constructive Feedback

Feedback is incredibly important to the scrum and sprint process, and not just from stakeholders—feedback from everyone on the team is vital in refining the process and making it work as best as possible.

Review All Aspects

Finally, it is crucial to review each and every part of the sprint process. While some aspects may be running smoothly, especially on the surface, small pieces can bring your momentum down and hold your team back.

All About Sprint Retrospective Meetings

Last but not least are sprint retrospectives, a crucial part of Agile and Scrum frameworks.

At the end of each sprint, the Scrum team will meet to discuss their completed work and any problems in the workflow. The focus in these sprint retrospectives is on the process itself, and refining how the team implements Scrum to maximize their work.

The Benefits of Sprint Retrospectives

There are many benefits to implementing sprint retrospectives. While their eye on workflow and refining the process may be obvious, they can also help create trust within the Scrum team itself by opening up transparent communication between team members and managers.

This in turn can lead to better communication between team members, boosting collaboration and productivity in the process.

How to Run Your Best Sprint Retrospectives

Here are our top tips for running your best sprint retrospectives.

Prepare During Your Sprints

Keeping an eye on your retrospectives during the sprint process itself can be extremely helpful. Simply by keeping records on your responsibilities and tasks during the sprint, you can have an itemized list of things to talk about and discuss during the retrospective. It also helps you keep an eye on your team's productivity and progress so your workflow stays smooth.

Open Up Communication

Like we mentioned earlier with sprint reviews, having open communication between team members and between team members and managers is one of the most vital parts in the sprint process.

In particular, discussing completed tasks and any blockers encountered during the sprint process can help eliminate those issues others may have in the future and deal with problems before they come up.

Tailor Your Sprints

One of the best things about sprints is their flexibility. They can be easily customized to fit each and every team—something that everyone should take advantage of in retrospectives. Some teams work better with shorter sprints, and some with longer. Some even work better with longer sprint retrospectives themselves. Experiment with what works best for you.

Center Your Sprints Around A Theme

A final way to keep your sprint retrospectives focused and on task is to “theme” the objectives of a particular sprint. Though this may seem vague, it can simply mean grouping like tasks together; for instance, you could run a sprint focused on research and development, or one focused on writing or creation.

Creating these “themes” instead of cobbling unrelated tasks together can help keep your team motivated during the sprint itself, but also on track during the retrospective as these tasks will likely naturally lead to one another.

How to Use ScrumGenius to Automate Your Scrum Ceremonies

One of the best ways to run your Scrum ceremonies is to automate them through a tool like ScrumGenius, taking out much of the manual work while maximizing your success.

As ScrumGenius is built on Scrum framework, we are ideal for helping you and your team through the Scrum process—especially the meetings. We have templates premade for daily standups, sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives, all of which you can mix and match to help fit your team the best.

Sign up for ScrumGenius today and let us help you boost your Scrum team's productivity and progress.

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