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Last updated on 10/15/19

Learn the Events of the SCRUM Process

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Now that you understand the roles of the SCRUM process, let's look at the dynamics of how the team works together by organizing a defined set of SCRUM events.

Scrum Events

There is a set of prescribed events in SCRUM serving a specific purpose. These events have been designed to reduce the need for other events (that are not prescribed by SCRUM). They are all time-boxed which means that they have a maximum length.

There are five main SCRUM events:

  1. The sprint

  2. Sprint planning

  3. Daily stand-up

  4. Sprint demo

  5. Sprint retrospective

Apart from the sprint, the other events are an opportunity for inspection and transparency. They allow teams the chance to examine what is working and to improve efficiencies. Therefore, not scheduling these other four events would result in less inspection, less transparency, less opportunity for the team to improve.

1. The Sprint

The sprint is the heart of SCRUM.

A sprint is usually 2 or 3 weeks in duration (although 1-week or 4-week sprints are sometimes seen). The team will attempt to begin, finish, and release work during this time. Once a sprint length is set, it cannot be changed. If your team is doing 2-week sprints, then the sprint must last exactly 2 weeks.

Some characteristics of sprints:

  • Each sprint lasts for the same fixed duration (e.g., 2 weeks).

  • The next sprint begins immediately after the previous one.

  • The team attempts to begin, work on, complete, and release shippable features.

  • Some items are selected from the product backlog that the team will attempt to complete for a sprint. These items become your sprint backlog. 

The Sprint
The SCRUM sprint

2. Sprint Planning

The process of selecting which items to work on during the sprint is done during the sprint planning meeting. Sprint planning is time-boxed to a maximum of 8 hours.

Sprint planning is focused on answering the following questions:

  1. What can be delivered in the upcoming sprint?

  2. How will we achieve the work needed to deliver these items?

The Product Owner begins the planning session by discussing the objective of the sprint (the sprint goal) and which items, if delivered, would result in the goal being met.

The team discusses how it will deliver these backlog items. This is typically done by breaking up the items into smaller tasks and estimating the length of time needed. By crafting a plan for how it will deliver these items, the team will then calculate how many items it can confidently deliver.

The Product Owner will discuss these items with the team during planning, answer questions, and often make trade-offs. For example, perhaps a feature cannot fit into the sprint but part of the feature could be done. The Product Owner would decide whether that is a good approach.  At the end of the meeting, the team agrees and commits to achieving the sprint goal through delivering a set of sprint backlog items via a plan.

3. Daily Stand-up

The daily stand-up is a daily meeting of no more than 15 minutes where each member of the team gives a brief update (ideally less than one minute) of how their work is progressing.

It is more common to have this meeting in the morning, although some teams working across multiple time zones may schedule the meeting for later in the day.

It is imperative that the meeting last no more than 15 minutes. Physically standing up helps keep the meeting short (It's easier to take a long time if you're comfortably seated).

The goal of this meeting is to let each team member know what the others are doing and plan to do. Team members can also use this time to indicate if they are stuck or blocked from progressing on their tasks.

The SCRUM Master is fully in control of this meeting. He will ask each of the members:

  1. What did you do yesterday?

  2. What you are going to do today?

  3. Do you have any obstacles or impediments?

It is important that each member listens to the update of the person speaking - no side conversations are allowed! Meetings should be held in the same place and at the same time. The meeting can be held in front of a progress board if one is used. That way members can update the board and see the status of the whole sprint in one place.

A daily standup often happens at the board!
A daily stand-up often happens at a progress/status board!

Benefits of Daily Stand-up Meetings

Although the benefits of keeping each team member up-to-date may seem obvious, it is worth looking at how the daily stand-up can positively impact the team’s performance:

  1. Each team member will know what each other member of the team is doing.

  2. Team members will know if someone is working on something that might be affected by the tasks they are currently working on.

  3. Team members can give input on other team members' tasks, helping them if they are blocked or stuck.

  4. Each team member can surface blockers which can quickly be remedied.

  5. A self-managing culture is born from the team working together, solving problems together, and unblocking each other. You may hear conversations such as “if you pick up that task, then we can get this done” or “I can help with this if you're stuck or if the team needs it."

  6. The SCRUM Master can ensure that nobody is blocked for more than a day, can see if a task is taking longer than expected, and can take action. If some feature is going to take longer, a conversation with the Product Owner about whether some features or tasks should be removed from the sprint can be had. Ultimately the team wants to meet the sprint goal.

4. Sprint Demo

At the end of a sprint, the SCRUM Master will organize a sprint demo where the items of the sprint that have just ended can be shown to key stakeholders. Many organizations choose to have an open invitation for sprint demos. Anyone in the company who is interested can turn up and watch the team demonstrate what they have built.

Doing a demo at the end of the sprint has many great advantages:

  1. It gives the team confidence to show their work and receive positive feedback from the rest of the organization.

  2. Key stakeholders know they have a moment when they will see built features before they are released. This gives them an opportunity to give input if they see something seriously wrong or misunderstood, before customers are affected.

  3. Feedback can come from many sources if the whole of the organization is invited. Sometimes someone from the support team, marketing team, etc. can deliver an incredibly valuable piece of insight from their domain.

  4. When the tech team knows they have an upcoming demo with a large audience, they have an added motivation to deliver a great demonstration.

5. Sprint Retrospective

SCRUM teams will hold a retrospective meeting at the end of each sprint so that all team members can give input on what is working well and what is not working well. With well run teams, it shouldn't require more than 30 minutes (with 2 hours being an absolute max).

The following questions should be asked to the group with any member of the team suggesting answers:

  1. What worked well during the last sprint?

  2. What did not work very well during the last sprint?

  3. What should we improve?

The SCRUM Master ensures that the tone of the meeting is productive and encourages things to be added to the improve list (a set of actions) when necessary.

The events aren't the only thing that characterizes SCRUM; next we will explore some key artifacts that help the team share information in SCRUM.

Summary

  • SCRUM prescribes some events to reduce the number of other non-SCRUM meetings.

  • There are five SCRUM events: the sprint, sprint planning, the daily SCRUM, sprint review, and the sprint retrospective.

Additional Resources

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement