Scrum Beginnings (Part 5): Let’s get those Ceremonies Setup!

Table Meeting with notebooks, computers & drinks

You can finally start to breathe now that you have met the team, gotten to know them a little better, developed a working agreement, a definition of done and answered a few of their questions about Scrum! It hasn’t been that scary, now has it? The next logical step is to start planning your ceremonies for your sprints. Ideally, you will want to set up these meetings for the same time every sprint to keep consistency, but obviously there will always be conflicts and situations when you need to change meeting times.

Sprint Planning

As I mentioned before, my organization decided on starting our Sprints on Wednesdays to ensure that developers are more likely to be in the office for Sprint planning. Let’s assume that the team is already in the middle of a development cycle and they have some features roughly figured out. Go ahead and schedule your Sprint planning for that Wednesday morning so that the team can come in and immediately get their work figured out for the first official sprint under your guidance! I love having every story and task assigned and the meeting done before lunch so that the team can get rolling that afternoon. In the beginning, you may want to schedule an hour and a half depending on whether your stories are tasked out or not.

Daily Stand-ups/Daily Scrum

Now let’s plan our daily stand-ups/scrums. I am a big fan of morning stand-ups so that the team can come together first thing and let each other know where they are at with their progress. It also allows me the opportunity to report issues and concerns at our Scrum of Scrums meeting, which I will discuss at a later time. If your team is not a “morning” team, then you can easily schedule them for the afternoons or end of the day. I wouldn’t say there is an advantage or disadvantage to morning vs. afternoon stand-ups, but it will be up to what your team decided on in its working agreement. Traditionally, we allocate 15 minutes for our stand-ups, but it is not uncommon to run a few minutes over because of critical issues.

Backlog Grooming

Hopefully you have a Product Owner and have begun working with him/her to get in sync with the Backlog and how you will groom the stories. Depending on the complexity and amount of work that needs to be done, two groomings a sprint are often necessary. Solid grooming sessions will make everyone’s lives easier! The stories will be better defined and the amount of time and effort needed will be clearer. Take pride in your backlog grooming and it will help your team become more efficient. We commonly set aside an hour or two each week to groom our stories. If the stories are going to be completed by a specific developer or two, we may offer the others the opportunity to skip the meeting to keep working. This is up to the team. It’s always great to have the entire team participate, but if certain developers will be of no help, then you can allow them to skip that particular session.

Sprint Review/Sprint Demo

The Sprint review/demo should be planned for the last day of the sprint (Tuesdays in my case), ideally in the afternoon to give your team an opportunity to tie up any loose ends before they present their work to the team(s) and any stakeholders in attendance. I have set up demos that were strictly for my team and I have also set up demos that showcased all of the teams in my community. As we learn more about scaled agile, we will discuss the idea of communities. You will want to make sure all necessary stakeholders are invited to your demos. An hour should suffice, unless there is a lot of work that will be demoed. You should allow for a few minutes for Q/A in case there are questions about what was presented.

Sprint Retrospective

The last ceremony I would plan is the retrospective. I have always found that placing it immediately after the demo is a perfect time to reflect on the Sprint. Depending on how chatty or quiet your team is, you may decide to either do 30 minutes or a full hour to retrospect. I certainly have had times when an hour flew by and we had to force each other to go home. Other times, 15-20 minutes was enough time to talk about the pertinent issues and come up with action items for the following sprint. I would rather overplan for an hour than not have enough time and have people leave during the middle of an important discussion.


Now that you have had a glimpse of my typical sprint layout, go ahead and get your ceremonies planned! I have always used the meeting function in the Outlook Mail client to invite my team and any necessary stakeholders to the meetings. It is easy to see their personal schedules and it allows them an efficient way to stay organized.

Now that the ceremonies are planned, let’s rock n’ roll!