The Scrum Events
In this blog we share some tips and ideas about the Scrum Events. As a Scrum Master, you are responsible for maximizing the value of Scrum in your organization. You are making sure that Scrum is successful. In order to maximize the success of Scrum, it is important that the Scrum Events are effective, efficient and valuable. Therefore, we’ll cover 10 tips about the Scrum Events in this blog. Also check out my other blogs with tips for the Scrum Master (see the links at the end of this blogpost). I hope you enjoy them!
10 Tips for the Scrum Events
1. It’s all about rhythm and cadence
One of the principles in the Agile Manifesto, is that we deliver working products/services to users by releasing early and often, by using an iterative and incremental approach. This means that we’re delivering small pieces of the product to customers, on a regular basis, using rhythm and cadence. Rhythm and cadence reduce complexity and increase predictability for the Scrum Team, the organization, customers and users. As a Scrum Master, you need to understand that having a rhythm in the organization is very helpful when you’re developing complex products or services in complex environments. So when planning a Sprint rhythm, you should prefer shorter Sprints (2 weeks) over longer Sprints, because it creates more rhythm and cadence.
2. Focus on purpose & stop doing Scrum halfway
Many organizations ‘do’ Scrum. Unfortunately though, they ‘do’ Scrum halfway. This is often caused by of lack of clarity and sense of purpose about the Scrum Events. Many teams out there aren’t doing a Sprint Retrospective for example. Many others only do the Daily Scrum two or three times a week. This is often caused by the problem that people either don’t understand an Events’ purpose, or because they find it hard.
So as a Scrum Master, it is important that you focus on the purpose of the Scrum Events and that you teach the Scrum Team about each Events’ purpose. The Scrum Team needs to understand that each element in Scrum is there for a specific reason and that each element is crucial to the Scrum Frameworks’ success. This is also why Scrum Teams should stop doing Scrum ‘halfway’. There are many teams who only do the Daily Scrum two or three times a week. Or who do the Sprint Retrospective once every two or three Sprints. Doing this isn’t going to help you maximize the value of Scrum for your team and organization! So stop doing Scrum halfway!
3. Improve continuously & gather feedback
Like the Scrum Guide explains: “Scrum is easy to understand, but difficult to master”. I’ve experienced that to be very true! When I started with Scrum about 10 years ago, I worked with the Scrum Guide and nothing more. Scrum wasn’t nearly so popular as it is now and there weren’t some much trainers, coaches and consultants as we have today. We used the Scrum Guide to adopt the rules of Scrum and besides that it was mostly common sense. What made Scrum successful for us however, was that we were constantly gathering feedback within the Scrum Team in order to improve.
An example of this, was that we always gathered feedback from stakeholders during the Sprint Review. We used a Happiness Meter for example to measure how satisfied our stakeholders were with the result, but also how happy they were with the Sprint Review Event. By measuring the happiness and by getting feedback from our stakeholders, we could frequently improve our Sprint Review, making it more valuable for the Scrum Team and our stakeholders. The same can be done for the other Scrum Events as well!
4. Take ownership & be the ‘invisible’ Scrum Master
Since you’re responsible for the success of Scrum, you have to take ownership over the success of the Scrum Events. As explained earlier, each Event has a clear purpose and each Event also has a clear ‘host’. The host however is very seldom the Scrum Master. The role of the Scrum Master is often to teach the Scrum Team how the Scrum process works, but it is rarely (except the Sprint Retrospective) the Scrum Master who is in the lead at a Scrum Event.
What we see very often for example, is that the Scrum Master is in the lead during the Daily Scrum. He or she is asking the Development Team the ‘three questions’ (see Scrum Guide), standing in front of the Scrum-board, repositioning Post-Its on the Scrum-board, etc. This is not what a Scrum Master should be doing during the Daily Scrum! The Scrum Masters’ role is actually to teach the Development Team how to conduct an effective Daily Scrum within the time-box of 15 minutes. This means you’re not ‘in the lead’. It rather means that you’re observing, sensing and feeling what is going on in the team, so that you train, mentor, coach and facilitate the team to become a little bit better every day.
5. Respect the time-box
All Scrum Events are time-boxed meetings. The Sprint Planning takes no more than 8 hours, the Daily Scrum no more than 15 minutes, etc. etc. These time-boxes are there for a reason! And no, it does not mean you should take at least that amount of time… The time-boxes in Scrum are there to create focus, one of the core-values of Scrum. Having time-boxes create focus for a team, it creates focus for discussing the most valuable things first, since there is a limited amount of time. So, use the time-boxes to your advantage! Time-boxing will help you in maximizing the value of Scrum.
6. Tips for the Sprint Planning
The following tips actually consist of a few more tips, there are of course many more tips that could be shared, so I picked a few that were very helpful for the Scrum Teams I coached in the past:
- Start with creating the Sprint Goal, together with the Scrum Team. The purpose of Scrum is to maximize the value for customers and users, so it’s important to work with this idea in mind. The goal is to produce as much outcome as possible, whilst creating as little output as possible. Remember: More output doesn’t equal more outcome;
- Create a clear and actionable plan for the Sprint, with tasks of one day or less. I’ve found it to be very helpful (and motivating for the Development Team) to be able to get multiple tasks to ‘done’ on a day. So, if you create tasks of 2 – 4 hours each, you can make progress every day;
- Take the Definition of Done into account for creating a better plan. In order to deliver the Product Increment conform the Definition of Done, the Development Team has to perform work. So, in order to plan quality upfront, use the Definition of Done during the Sprint Planning, so that you take quality into account;
- Only take ‘Ready Items’ into the Sprint. In order to create an actionable plan for the Sprint, make sure that every Product Backlog Item (that is being pulled into the Sprint) is clear and understood by all of the Development Team members. This supports better collaboration, communication and understanding of the work.
- Plan for uncertainty, so that you can adapt to changes during the Sprint. Typically, something happens every Sprint. Whether it’s a bug, an incident a new high priority request, changes will always occur during the Sprint. So, plan for for this to happen. The work doesn’t have to be piled up for all team members. They don’t have to be fully booked! Instead, support them to keep some flexibility in the Sprint;
7. Tips for the Daily Scrum
Here are some tips for improving your Daily Scrum:
- Stick to the 15-minute time-box! Enough said right?
- Inspect the progress towards the Sprint Goal. The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect on a daily basis whether or not the Development Team is going to achieve the Sprint Goal. There are many techniques for doing this, one of these techniques is using ‘the three question’. The purpose of the Daily Scrum however, is not to answer those questions! Focussing too much on the questions often results in ‘Zombie Scrum’. It is to inspect progress towards the Sprint Goal;
- Let the Development Team take ownership! Don’t take the lead as a Scrum Master, instead, stand in the back of the room. Observe what happens. Sense and feel what is going on. Maybe ask some powerful questions when the Daily Scrum is over, in order to coach the Development Team;
- Focus, focus and focus on progress towards the Sprint Goal! A major pitfall for a lot of team is to have extensive, in-depth conversations and discussions during the Daily Scrum. The purpose of the Daily Scrum is not to solve impediments during the meeting, or have long conversations about the work. It’s a meeting for inspecting progress made and for re-planning for the next 24 hours;
Introduce different practices and techniques to keep the Daily Scrum fun and interesting. ‘Zombie Scrum’ often emerges when teams are doing the same thing day in, day out. There are many techniques however for keeping the Daily Scrum interesting, interactive and fun. Try some different techniques/formats out with your team!
8. Tips for the Sprint Review
Here are some tips for improving your Sprint Review:
- Focus on value! The Product Owner should invite his or her (key) stakeholders to the Sprint Review. In most cases, the stakeholders are mostly interested in the value that is being delivered via the Product Increment. So, in order to keep the Sprint Review interesting, focus mostly on the value delivered! Besides that, make sure that you speak the language of the stakeholders. Don’t use technical language or jargon, since people will check out.
- Make the (key) stakeholders are present at the Sprint Review. The Sprint Review is an important stakeholder management meeting. It’s a meeting for gathering feedback, new insights and making decisions. The Sprint Review is much more than a ‘demo’ of the product, so make sure the key stakeholders are there;
- Measure stakeholder satisfaction! In practice, I’ve seen many stakeholders that were very excited about the Sprint Review, in the beginning at least… So, in order to keep them on board, make sure you measure their satisfaction at the Sprint Review. Measure how happy they are with the results, but also how happy they are with the Sprint Review, with the presentation, interaction, etc. This will help you to keep the Sprint Review interesting;
- Let the Development Team shine! The Sprint Review is a perfect opportunity to offer the Development Team a spot on stage. To let them demonstrate the work they’ve done and to give them some credits for it!
- The Sprint Review is more than a ‘demo’. The Sprint Review isn’t only about looking back, it isn’t only about demonstrating the Increment. The Sprint Review is also about looking forward, about inspecting the Product Backlog, the market conditions, new opportunities and about inspecting the next steps to be taken in order to maximize the value of the Product.
Here are some tips for improving your Sprint Retrospective:
- Do the Retrospective! This may be an open door for some of you, but we’ve met way too many teams who stopped doing the Retrospective. Some teams say “it’s boring”, others say “there’s nothing to improve” or “there’s no time for improvement”. Guess what? Not doing the Sprint Retrospective will keep all these excuses in tact! The Retrospective helps you to solve these issues! So, as a Scrum Master, never ever cancel or stop doing the Retrospective!
- Gather data and observations. As a Scrum Master, you’re a coach, mentor, trainer and facilitator for the Scrum Team. In order to help the Scrum Team improve, make sure that you gather data and observations during the Sprint. This will also help you to prepare a suitable agenda, format and techniques;
- Keep the Retrospective interesting. There are many different tools, techniques, formats and ways for conducting retrospectives. Check out some of these websites for inspiration: Retromat, FunRetrospectives and TastyCupcakes;
- Create a safe environment and make sure everyone is involved and gets a chance to speak. The Retrospective should be a safe environment in which people can and will speak up. As a Scrum Master, should set the stage for the Retrospective in order to create a safe environment;
- Create actionable items. The purpose of the Sprint Retrospective is to improve. Therefore, make sure that the Scrum Team chooses one to three clear and actionable improvement actions for the next Sprint. It’s fine to talk about themes and topics (like communication) in the Retrospective, but always make sure to pick one to three actionable improvement actions that the Scrum Team will perform in the next Sprint. This way, you’re making sure that continuous improvement happens.
10. Tips for Product Backlog Refinement
Here are some tips for improving Product Backlog Refinement meetings:
- Apply rhythm and cadence. What often works for a lot of teams, is to plan Product Backlog Refinement meetings, for example 1-2 hours every Tuesday and Thursday. This reduces complexity and creates more predictability. It’s also much easier for stakeholders or experts to attend Refinement meetings which are planned on a regular basis;
- Time-box discussions! As explained earlier, there is a lot of value in using time-boxes;
- Focus on ‘what’ and ‘why’. The goal of Refinement is not to completely nail down solutions in functional or technical documentation. The goal of Refinement is to create ‘Ready’ Product Backlog Items that can be pulled into a Sprint. This also includes re-ordering the Product Backlog, adding details, estimates, acceptance criteria and business value for example. Most important however, is to focus on ‘what’ and ‘why’. Focus on the problem you’re trying to solve and why the problem actually is a problem, and how big a problem;
- Do Refinement ‘just in time, just enough’. By doing Refinement on a regular basis, you’re working to create a Product Backlog with ‘Ready’ items for the next one to three Sprints. The goal is not to create ‘Ready’ items for the next year. Nor is it the idea to refine work for the current Sprint!
- Invite stakeholders and experts to Refinement. In a lot of organizations, Development Teams can very much use the help of technical, security or business experts for example to built the product. So, invite them during Refinement meetings! Let them help the Development Team to brainstorm on solutions, ask questions, offer direction, etc.
So, these are the 10 tips for Scrum Masters on the topic of the Scrum Events! I hope you enjoyed them and that they’ll help you in becoming a better Scrum Master!
Also check out these other tips for Scrum Masters!
Holy Guacamoly! Are there even more tips for Scrum Masters? Yes there are! We’ve described 60 more tips for Scrum Masters, to help you to become better in your role! We’ve defined 7 aspects of Scrum Mastery on which we have interesting tips to share with you, so check them out: