The Elements of SCRUM #2

The Elements of SCRUM #2

Anna Dabrowski, Head Editor

Installment Two: SCRUM Ceremonies

 In the last installment of this SCRUM methodology series I covered what isn’t SCRUM, and the basic methodologies of “Agile”, which is a part of SCRUM. Up until this point the actual system of SCRUM has been left pretty ambiguous, mostly because it’s difficult to explain all the methodologies of SCRUM without interlacing them. This installment is going to be about the “ceremonies” of SCRUM which is really just a fancy way of saying meetings. Generally a SCRUM team engages in five different types of meetings during their sprint. A sprint refers to a period of time in which a team works as hard as they can to complete the work they have agreed to take on. Sprints can vary from one week to one month depending on the team’s preferences. 

At the very start of the sprint the first meeting that takes place is the sprint planning meeting, which is exactly what it sounds like. The team members meet with the project manager and the project manager presents stories that they would like the team to complete. As a refresher, stories are features that are supposed to eventually be added to a given website. The team members carefully examine every story given to them and decide how many of them they can actually take on. Teams typically decide how much work they can take on by using a point system that assigns a number to every story based on difficulty level. A team usually knows their “point trajectory” which is how many points of work they can complete in a given week. This point system allows for teams to effectively decide how many stories they can take on for each sprint. If a team’s trajectory is 40, once they take on 40 points of work they can tell the project manager that they can’t take on any more stories, and the project owner has to listen. For the second part of the sprint planning meeting the SCRUM team asks any necessary questions they have about the stories and the project manager addresses any concerns. The team also breaks the stories down into smaller, more digestible tasks. 

The second meeting actually occurs every day of the spirit, and is called the “Daily SCRUM”. This daily meeting only lasts around fifteen minutes and does not involve the project manager. The SCRUM team typically conducts the meeting at the beginning of the day and is essentially a time for the team to check in with each other. Each member shares what they have accomplished since the last meeting and also shares whatever problems they are having with completing their tasks. This is a great time for members to schedule a time to help each other out with whatever difficulties they are having. SCRUM teams that work together in person will use this time to move completed tasks from the “doing side” of their group task board to the “done” side of their task board. 

“Story Time” refers to an hour-long meeting that occurs once a week. This meeting has nothing to do with the current sprint and everything to do with backlog grooming. A story backlog is a list of all potential stories. The top of the backlog should have higher priority, well defined stories, broken into small tasks. The bottom of the backlog contains low priority vaguely defined stories. At each Story Time meeting the team spends time grooming the backlog, this can mean reorganizing the priority order or breaking down stories into smaller tasks. Teams also assign a work point value to each story based on difficulty using Fibonacci’s sequence. The sequence starts with 1 and then 2, and then every consecutive number is the sum of the previous two numbers, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, and so on. The point assignment is pretty simple, the easiest tasks are assigned 1 and the harder the tasks are the higher point value they are assigned. 

At the end of each sprint there is a big meeting with the SCRUM team, the product manager, and all of the stakeholders who want to attend. This meeting is an opportunity for the team to share what successful developments they have completed, and also address anything they did not complete and the reasons for non completion. The stakeholders provide feedback to the product manager who takes notes for later reference.

The final meeting is called “Retrospective”, and is solely for reflection on the part of the SCRUM team. It also occurs at the end of a sprint and is a time for the team to analyze what went well during the sprint and what needs to be improved on. The team makes a laundry list of things to improve on and then picks one or two things to focus on for the next sprint, since focusing on a bunch of things is rarely ever successful. Once the two improvements have been decided on, the team designs an action plan to put the improvements in place for the next sprint.

That was a lot of information, but we haven’t even gone over the SCRUM roles yet, which will be in the next installment. After the next installment the puzzle pieces will all hopefully fit together and a general understanding of SCRUM will be decently formulated. The previous and next installment can be found under the related stories menu.