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Ultimate Guide to Agile Ceremonies (Processes + Tips)

Ultimate Guide to Agile Ceremonies (Processes + Tips)

Ready to learn about Agile ceremonies?

Agile ceremonies are an important part of any Agile project. 

In fact, they were created to make sure that your software development team is TCB.

What’s TCB? 

We’ll let Kramer from Seinfeld explain:

In this article, we’ll give you some tips on hosting Agile ceremonies. We’ll even highlight the best way to manage them and answer the most important question of them all:

In this article

We’ll start when Kramer arrives.

Ah, let’s begin!

What Is Agile?

Note: This is a crash-course on Agile to help you get accustomed to the project management method behind Agile ceremonies. If you want to skip ahead to the section specifically about ceremonies, click here.

Back in the 90s, when Seinfeld was the most popular show on TV, software development was a really slow process.

Development teams created a plan and spent months (sometimes years!) designing and testing the product before it was eventually released.

 

And then, in 2001, Agile methodologies came along and shortened the development time from several months to just a few weeks!

But how?

In Agile, you break your project down into smaller development cycles called sprints. Sprints are short bursts of work that last between 1-4 weeks.

For the duration of the sprint, the Agile development team works on creating a functional version of the software. After the sprint, users try it out and give the team feedback on how to improve their product in upcoming sprints.

This product increment cycle repeats itself until you’ve created a final product that makes your customers as happy as Jerry was when he found his girlfriend’s toy collection!

Types of Agile frameworks

Over the years, the Agile methodology became more advanced, and that led to the development of different methodologies that follow Agile principles. 

While there are many types of Agile subsets like Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and Lean, we’ll focus on the two main ones here:

1. Scrum 

According to the Scrum framework, the development team decides what they are going to do in a sprint. They list the tasks on a whiteboard called a Scrum board. The Scrum board is split into columns based on the status of the task – ‘To Do’, ‘In Progress’, ‘Done’ like this:

The team then sticks to the plan and delivers a working model of the software on the final day of the sprint. If the development team is unable to finish the tasks before the current sprint ends, it’s considered a failure.

But don’t worry, Scrum teams are usually super experienced, so they rarely fail to meet their targets!

2. Kanban

At first glance, Kanban is a Scrum lookalike – like how George’s ex-girlfriend looked like a female version of Jerry!

But don’t be fooled!

While both Scrum and Kanban methods require boards, the difference is there in the way they use it. Instead of having a strict time-boxed sprint, Kanban sprints are more flexible. 

Moreover, there is no penalty if the team isn’t able to deliver everything in a sprint

That sounds like a cool deal; however, customers like George might become frustrated by the delay.

 

Want to know which Agile framework is better for your business? Check out this article to take a deeper dive into the worlds of Scrum and Kanban.

What is an Agile team?

An Agile development team is a cross-functional group of people that work together to create a working product.

The entire team has a wide range of skill-sets and may even have someone who is a jack of all trades like Kramer (who was an author, salesman, karate student, and more!)

Either way, each team member has a specific role to play. 

Let’s take a look at the key Agile team roles:

  • Product Owner: creates a vision for the final product based on the customer’s needs
  • Project Manager: ensures that the project team is working together, and is using Agile practices effectively
  • Development Team: uses their combined skill-sets to create the product
  • Agile Coach: helps the employees to adopt Agile practices and principles

Note: According to Scrum terminology, a project manager is known as a Scrum master.

What Are The Key Agile Ceremonies?

Before we explain what Agile ceremonies are, we need to understand the nature of Agile teams. 

Agile teams believe in continuous improvement

And in order to continually improve their performance, they need to gather valuable information like customer feedback and frequent project updates.

That’s why Agile teams need to have dedicated meetings called Agile ceremonies to share information, so they can get better with every sprint. 

Remember what Newman once said?

This applies to Agile practices too (sorta)!

This means that If you host (control) an Agile ceremony, you control the flow of data, which can help your team work more efficiently.

Now, let’s take a look at 5 key Agile ceremonies every Agile development team must attend: 

1.Sprint Planning Ceremony

Unlike the show, your sprint shouldn’t be about ‘nothing’!

Your upcoming sprint should focus on completing one version of the software. And that can only be done when you have a plan!

That’s where the sprint planning meeting comes in.

A. Which Agile framework is it suited for?

This is mainly used by regular Agile teams and Scrum teams. 

Kanban teams have a separate planning session when they run out of backlog items or have to work on a new release.

B. When does it happen?

On the first day of the sprint.

C. Who attends these Agile ceremonies?

The product owner, Scrum Master, and the development team attend this Scrum ceremony.

D. What is the goal of this meeting?

In a sprint planning meeting, the development team figures out the amount of work they need to complete for the next sprint or iteration

E. What happens in these meetings?

Let’s suppose you’re developing an answering machine for George.

Before the meeting begins, the product owner needs to prepare a product backlog – a list of items the team needs to work on in order to create the answering machine.

Stuff like:

  • The buttons
  • The speaker
  • And a microphone that can record George’s hilarious answering machine note!

Once the product owner finishes the backlog, they meet up with the team to review the backlog items. 

The development team and product owner then create a final set of objectives that need to be worked on during the sprint. This is called a sprint goal.

Keep in mind that you can’t just randomly put together a list of objectives. 

They have to be carefully considered.

Why?

Because the sprint goal should only contain work that helps create a working model of the software.

At the end of the meeting, the entire Scrum team should agree with the final sprint goal.

F. How long does it last?

The length of the sprint planning ceremony depends on the sprint duration. 

Here’s how you can figure it out:

  • Multiply the sprint length by two, and host a meeting for those many hours.
  • For example: For a 2 week sprint, the meeting should last (2 x 2 =) 4 hours.

G. Got any tips?

  1. Break down user stories (software features) into smaller and more manageable tasks. Then you can easily assign them to your Scrum team members.
  2. The team should only talk about the tasks mentioned by the product owner.
  3. The Scrum master should account for the team’s availability, leaves and holidays to estimate the amount of work that can actually be done.

2. Daily standup

Don’t be fooled. This doesn’t refer to Jerry’s comedy routine!

The daily standup, or the daily Scrum meeting, helps your team plan their day.

A. Which Agile framework is it suited for?

Agile, Scrum, and Kanban teams can host daily meetings.

B. When does it happen?

They are held first thing in the morning,

C. Who attends these Agile ceremonies?

The project manager and the development team.

D. What is the goal of this meeting?

The daily Scrum is the time for your team to gather and understand what’s going on within the project.

E. What happens in these meetings?

Every day, the team meets up in front of the Scrum or Kanban board like George and his dad here.

The team members take turns discussing their plan for the day, as well as reporting their progress. This is important because the Scrum master will know how their team is placed.

Each Agile development professional’s monologue must answer these 3 questions:

  1. What did you finish yesterday?
  2. What will you work on today?
  3. Is your progress blocked by anything?

In the meantime, the Scrum master should identify the issues faced and quickly provide solutions.

F. How long does it last?

The daily Scrum meeting should be no more than 15 minutes.

G. Got any tips?

  1. The daily Scrum meeting should happen at the same time and place every day.
  2. No one should add new tasks to the backlog during this meeting.
  3. Just like how each guest at Kramer’s talk show has a limited amount of time to talk, the daily standup should have time limits to prevent the discussion from going off-topic.

3. Backlog refinement meeting

Working in an Agile team is like being a chef on a busy day.

Once you’ve served a customer, you need to serve another one immediately.

Unless you’re this guy, of course.

Similarly, in an Agile environment, once a sprint is over, another one begins. In that case, you need to be ready for the upcoming sprint, even before it begins! 

That’s where the backlog refinement meeting comes in.

A. Which Agile framework is it suited for?

Agile, Scrum, and Kanban teams can groom their backlog over these meetings.

B. When does it happen?

It happens a few days before the sprint review (more on that later).

C. Who attends these Agile ceremonies?

The product owner and the development team.

D. What is the goal of this meeting?

This meeting ensures that the sprint backlog (tasks that need to be completed in a sprint) is in place for the next sprint.

E. What happens in these meetings?

The team members and the product owner come together to discuss the items in the product backlog.

The product owner tells the team what product features the customers want, and which features should be developed in the upcoming sprint or iteration.

Let’s go back to George’s answering machine.

So if George wants his product to record more than two messages, the product owner breaks down this user story into tasks that need to be worked on the next sprint.

But that’s not all that happens in the product backlog refinement meeting. 

Product owners have to focus on the following responsibilities as well:

  • Removing user stories that are no longer needed
  • Prioritizing stories based on what the customer needs
  • Estimate how much time a user story or task would take to complete

F. How long does it last?

For a two-week sprint, the refinement meeting should take two hours, a three-week sprint should take three hours, and so on.

G. Got any tips?

  1. Product owners can have an informal backlog refinement session with the client or customers to understand what they want.
  2. Not everyone has to show up to these meetings. The product owner decides who is required to discuss changes in the backlog.

4. Sprint review (iteration review)

We’ve come to the end of the iteration or sprint

At this stage, your team should have ideally completed all the tasks in the sprint backlog.

What happens next?

Now, it’s showtime or as Kramer would say it’s time to…

Their work is presented to each and every stakeholder in the sprint review meeting.

A. Which Agile framework is it suited for?

Agile, Scrum, and Kanban teams can host these meetings. 

B. When does it happen?

While a Scrum team attends these meetings at the end of the sprint, the Kanban teams gather when they’ve reached a milestone.

C. Who attends these Agile ceremonies?

The development team, Scrum master or team leader, product owner, and the stakeholders.

D. What is the goal of this meeting?

The working model of the software is presented to the stakeholders, and they give their immediate feedback.

E. What happens in these meetings?

All the stakeholders (investors and clients) and development teams gather in a conference room. 

The Scrum or Kanban team then displays the sprint’s goal and usually showcases a presentation that highlights:

  • The tasks that have been completed
  • The user stories that have been addressed
  • New features that have been added

At the end of the presentation, the stakeholders ask questions they might have and give their feedback.

Don’t worry about getting a bad review like Kramer when he worked at Brandt/Leland! 

His work was terrible because he had no business training, which won’t be the case with your team!

Most of the feedback should be taken as an opportunity for your project team to sharpen their skills

How?

The feedback and suggestions received here are considered during the future sprint planning meeting to improve your processes!

F. How long does it last?

The product demo and review should last around 60 minutes. 

G. Got any tips?

  1. Your presentation must highlight how your product adds business value and helps customers.
  2. Practice and prepare for the sprint review meeting. Consider recording your mock speech so you can work on improving your delivery, just like how Jerry tapes his standup set.

5. Sprint retrospective meeting

This meeting is kind of similar to the finale of ‘Seinfeld’. 

Sounds crazy, but let us explain!

In the finale, the group comes together in a courtroom where they recap every bad thing they did in the past few years.

And in a sprint retrospective meeting, your Agile Development team takes stock of all the things they did in the current sprint, both good and bad.

A. Which Agile framework is it suited for?

Agile, Scrum, and Kanban teams can host a retrospective.

B. When does it happen?

The retrospective meeting happens after the review.

C. Who attends these Agile ceremonies?

The Scrum master or team leader, and the development team.

D. What is the goal of this meeting?

In this meeting, the team should look back at their internal sprint performance, and discuss how they can work even better in the next sprint.

E. What happens in these meetings?

The Scrum master or the team leader facilitates this meeting. 

Team members generally discuss three questions:

  1. What went well during the sprint?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. What could the team do differently?

In addition to these questions, Scrum masters can bring different topics to the discussion, such as milestones, dependencies, yada yada yada, and misunderstandings.

F. How long does it last?

Just in like the sprint review meeting, the sprint retrospective meeting should last no more than an hour.

G. Got any tips?

  1. Encourage your team to be honest and open about their performance.
  2. However, make sure that your team members don’t ‘air their grievances’ and blame everyone like George’s dad during Festivus!

How To Effectively Manage The Agile Ceremonies

For the entire team to work efficiently, your Agile ceremonies have to be efficient too! 

Fortunately, there are Agile project management tools like ClickUp that can help you manage every aspect of these meetings!

What’s ClickUp?

ClickUp is one of the world’s highest-rated Agile project management tools. Used by 100,000+ teams from startups to software giants like Google, Uber, Netflix, and more, this remote project management tool has everything you need to make your Agile meetings super productive!

Here are 5 ways that ClickUp can help you host better Agile ceremonies:

1. Improve your sprint planning with Goals

As previously mentioned, the sprint goal is the most important part of this meeting. That’s why ClickUp makes it super easy to track them with the Goals feature.

In ClickUp, Goals are high-level containers that are broken down into Targets.

For example:

Kramer’s goal is to sell a coffee table book about coffee tables, which is also a coffee table! 

He can break the goal into two 2 sales Targets:

  • Supply books to the 20 stores 
  • Promote the book at 5 talk shows

But that’s not the only kind of Target you can set in ClickUp!

In ClickUp, you can also add a list of tasks to your Target. 

This is ‘Gold’ when it comes to sprint planning.

How?

Imagine your sprint goal is ‘to finish a new app update’. 

You might have a sprint backlog of 20 items. 

You can instantly add this task list to your Targets to your overall sprint goal.

And as your development team works through the backlog, ClickUp automatically shows your team’s current sprint progress percentage in real-time!

2. Use a Virtual Scrum/Kanban Board for your remote Agile team

Even after the COVID-19 Pandemic, thousands of Scrum and Kanban teams will continue to work remotely.

Much like George and Elaine in 2020!

Because of this, it might be harder to gather around a physical board during the daily standup. Fortunately, ClickUp makes it super easy for your remote team to conduct this meeting.

ClickUp’s Board View mimics a virtual Scrum/Kanban Board and displays your list of sprint tasks. 

This way, your team has a clear picture of:

  • What tasks are in progress
  • What tasks have been completed
  • What tasks are taking a lot of time

Convenient, right?

Here’s one more feature that makes the board easy to use:

Once your team members have finished their tasks, they can just drag and drop the task to the relevant column! It’s that simple!

3. Make product backlog refinement easier with Sprint Lists

Product backlog refinement can be scary – even scarier than clowns!

Why is it a daunting task?

Your product backlog would be filled with items like user stories, bug fixes, customer feedback, and more.

And you have to organize and prioritize everything in just a few hours

But you don’t have to go at it alone. 

ClickUp’s Sprint Lists can help you speed up the backlog grooming process.

Sprint Lists allows you to see every product backlog item, on a single screen.

After you’ve broken down the items into tasks, ClickUp lets you group your tasks into relevant columns like ‘Bugs’, ‘Features’, ‘Feedback’, ‘User story 1 tasks’, etc.

4. Share sprint data with stakeholders after the sprint review

Displaying a working model of your software to your stakeholders isn’t enough. 

You would have also shared important data related to the project – like how George had to share files with his new client, Mr. Pensky.

 

These files can include progress reports, information over backlog items, and any other ‘behind-the-scenes’ documentation.

Luckily, ClickUp lets you safely share information with people outside your company during the sprint review.

How?

With Custom Access Rights, you can grant ‘Permissions’ to your stakeholders to let them access your files.

And we do hope your stakeholders will be as pleased as Mr. Pensky when they receive their files!

5. Get comprehensive Agile metrics for a better retrospective

During the sprint retrospective meeting, the Scrum master or team leader goes through important charts to analyze the team’s performance.

However, instead of using outdated Excel charts like Kramer, your team should switch to advanced data visualizations like ClickUp’s Dashboards

ClickUp’s Dashboards contain a lot of helpful widgets that let you visualize your sprint data, such as:

You can arrange all the widgets, and create your own Custom Dashboard to track your team’s progress anytime, and anywhere!

Conclusion

Agile ceremonies are crucial for your team’s success as they allow your project team to collaborate together efficiently.

And because of this, most Agile and Scrum teams spend 23% of the sprint huddled in Agile ceremonies

However, if you’re hosting these meetings incorrectly, you are going to spend even more time organizing them. 

This burden is equivalent to carrying tons of boxes all on your own!

Fortunately, Agile project management tools like ClickUp can lend you a helping hand, so you don’t get overwhelmed like Kramer there!

ClickUp has tons of features to manage all your important Agile meetings and Scrum artifacts. This way, you can focus on collaborating with your team instead of organizing ceremonies!

So why not try out ClickUp today? 

Click on Jerry’s apartment door to exit the article and enter ClickUp!

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