Wasteful Scrum Meetings

July 12, 2010 at 12:28 pm 2 comments


Sometimes the Scrum meetings (planning, review, retrospective, daily scrum) are considered to be wasteful overhead.

Sorry, but that is bullshit. If the Scrum meetings feel like wasteful overhead, it is almost always your own failure.

Focus is one of the Scrum values. If your Scrum meetings feel wasteful, they need better focus. Stop doing the things that don’t provide value.

Let’s look at the meetings one by one.

Estimation Meeting

During the estimation meeting two things should happen:

  1. The product backlog items are estimated by the team.
  2. More important: Knowledge is shared between Product Owner and Team and the Team participates in definition, splitting and refining product backlog items.

If the Product Owner doesn’t have to forecast a release date or development effort, he could simply skip point 1. An alternative could be to use a very rough estimate and simply use an estimation of 1 story point for every backlog item.

If the product backlog items are simple and clear point 2 may not be neccessary. In that case you could simply skip it.

If both points aren’t neccessary you can skip the whole meeting. There is a reason that the estimation meeting is not an official part of Scrum.

Sprint Planning

The goal of the sprint planning is of course to plan the Sprint. It is dependent on the team how it is done best and how much effort the team has to invest. I have seen teams doing a Sprint Planning in a few minutes.

Doing a task breakdown is a proven practice during the Sprint Planning but it is not a must. If the team can generate value with only considering the stories, the team doesn’t need to do a task breakdown during the Sprint Planning. The team could do an ad-hoc task breakdown when it begins working on the story. If the stories are really tiny the team may need no task breakdown at all.

Sprint Review

If the Product Owner is colocated with the development team he should have seen the implemented stories before the Sprint Review. Therefore there may be no need to present the stories again to the Product Owner during the Sprint Review. But there is much more to the Sprint Review. The Product Owner should invite the stakeholders to the Sprint Review meeting so that they can get a first-hand impression about status and progress of the development.

Sprint Retrospective

The Sprint Retrospective is the focus point where the teams tries to improve. If the retrospectives feel like waste, the facilitator is probably not doing his job effectivly.

Daily Scrum

The 15 minutes of the Daily Scrum should help the development team to focus on the next step within the Sprint. The team finds out where it stands and defines the plan for the day. A team may or may not use the full 15 minutes. But if there is a team the members simply have to coordinate. Within very small teams (e.g. 2 persons) there may be no need for a Daily Scrum. But even in these cases I have seen Daily Scrums to be very useful.

Similar to the retrospectives: If the Daily Scrum feels like waste, probably the ScrumMaster isn’t facilitating effectivly.

Assumptions

There are two assumptions underlying this blog post:

  • You want to work with a team and not just a group of people.
  • You want to work with timeboxed Sprints.

If one of these assumptions doesn’t hold true, one may come to other conclusions.

Entry filed under: it-agile-blog-planet. Tags: , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sven Tiffe  |  July 13, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Thank you for this blog post. I like the general idea “Not the meetings are waste, but the way you do them may be.” as it challenges the participants to improve their behaviour instead to ask for improvement of the process.

    In this context, I do not completely agree to your conclusion “If the retrospectives feel like waste, the facilitator is probably not doing his job effectivly.”. From my point of view, the retrospectives are the hardest lesson to learn and have the biggest impact on teamwork and -culture. This meeting challenges on the individual’s comfort zones more than the organizational meetings of Scrum; refusal may not be caused by bad facilitation only but also heavily influenced by maturity of the teamculture.

    So I wonder if you can tackle this by good facilitation (e.g. by creating safety zones for the participants) or whether this specific meeting requires more attention and good coaching skills?

  • 2. stefanroock  |  July 13, 2010 at 11:15 am

    @Svene: I am with you that retrospectives are challenging in the beginning. It is relativly easy to learn doing the others meeting effectivly. Retrospectives are another story. A 2 day Scrum class is not enough to facilitate a retrospective in an effective way. But for me it is still the question of facilitation.
    In immature organizations/teams it may not be possible to generate useful action items for process improvement during the first retrospectives. In these cases the leading question for a retrospective may be: “What do we have to do to be able to generate useful action items?”

    Not every retrospective I have seen generated useful action items but every single one could have with better facilitation (and some of the ones I facilitated belong to this group also). But as a facilitator I wouldn’t come to the conclusion that retrospectives are a waste of time and should be eliminated. I should try to improve my facilitation to generate better results.

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