We’re off to the races! 🏃🏃♀️ Sprints are a key component of agile methodology. A sprint is a predefined time period in which agile teams work together towards an agreed-upon sprint goal. There are four types of agile meetings that occur over the course of a sprint, and each is vital to ensuring the success of the agile process. It’s all about sprinting through a predetermined amount of work to get to the finish line, where you learn from your process and begin the race again (only better off because of what you learned during the previous sprint).
Agile meetings are used to get team members, leaders, and stakeholders on the same page, and they guide the process of an agile sprint or Scrum.
This post will cover the four key agile meetings, which include sprint planning, daily standups, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives. Plus, we’ll discuss a bonus agile meeting that’s utilized for backlog refinement.
Agile meetings vs. Scrum meetings
Scrum is an agile methodology that’s most commonly used in software development. Scrum meetings are technically a type of agile meeting, but they have more specific parameters designed to fit within the Scrum framework. The process revolves around a 2-4 week sprint involving a product owner, Scrum Master, and the entire Scrum team.
We covered Scrum meetings (ceremonies) in detail in another article. For the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the four main agile meeting types. These processes and best practices can be applied across multiple agile methodologies, including Scrum and Kanban. This framework can also be applied across industries beyond software development and can adapt to the needs of most teams.
Simply put: Scrum has a more rigid framework that follows four ceremonies/meetings. The agile process is much the same, with four very similar meetings, but there’s more flexibility to adjust the time frame of the sprint and adapt the process when not following Scrum guidelines specifically. Okay, maybe that’s still not simply put, but it wouldn’t be agile if it was linear and straightforward.
The 4 types of agile meetings
There are four central agile meetings: sprint planning, daily standups, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospective meetings. A sprint starts with a sprint planning meeting. Each day, a daily standup meeting is held. Finally, at the end of the sprint, a sprint review and retrospective are held. The process repeats with new springs until the product, project, or work is complete.
1. Sprint planning meeting
The sprint planning meeting occurs at the beginning of a sprint and involves the entire team. In sprint planning, the entire team meets to discuss and agree upon which work tasks (backlog items) should be moved to the sprint backlog — the items that need to be completed by the end of the sprint. During the meeting, sprint goals are determined, and the team aligns on expectations.
Without a sprint planning meeting to outline the sprint backlog (tasks that need to be completed), the team will waste time during the sprint trying to determine which work takes precedent.
Sprint planning mistakes to avoid:
- Starting planning without a refined backlog
- Not being on the same page as your stakeholders
- Ignoring the customer and the customer journey when making plans
- Creating a rigid plan that doesn’t have room to grow or adapt
- Using bland, flat product maps that lack critical context
- Failing to incorporate retrospective insights in the following planning session
Learn more about common agile planning mistakes and how your development team can avoid these pitfalls.
2. Daily standup meeting
The daily standup meeting occurs every day of the sprint. In the Scrum process, this meeting might also be called the daily Scrum meeting. It’s a chance for the team to connect about the work that was completed the previous day and what each person or team plans to complete over the course of the next 24 hours.
The meeting aims to answer three important questions:
- What work was completed since the last standup to help the team reach the sprint goal?
- What work do you plan to complete today?
- Is there anything currently in your way or hindering your progress?
This is a good time to address any bottlenecks. If work planned from the previous day wasn’t completed, what caused the delay, and how can the team work together to solve any problems keeping the work from moving forward?
A standup meeting is short and to the point so everyone can get back to the work they hope to complete. So short that it’s often recommended participants stand for the duration of the meeting. Hence the name daily standup. It includes all team members and ideally takes place at the same time every day to ensure everyone can always attend.
Daily standup mistakes to avoid:
- Not keeping track of the time during the meeting
- Continually going over the allotted meeting time
- Rambling participants who aren’t prepared to answer the meeting’s key questions
- Skipping the meeting due to lack of time
- Team members showing up late to the meeting or missing it altogether
- Allowing the loudest voices to overshadow the rest of the team
- Letting someone state the same task on multiple consecutive days
- Failing to address potential bottlenecks
- Assigning work beyond a person's capacity
3. Sprint review meeting
The sprint review is an opportunity for the team to showcase the work they accomplished during the sprint. This meeting might be an internal presentation or a more formal demo to stakeholders, depending on the needs of the project and how far along work is.
Sprint review mistakes to avoid:
- Not properly preparing for the meeting or demonstration
- Not bringing stakeholders in on your process
- Failing to demonstrate how the work brings value to the customer
- Exaggerating or embellishing successes
- Failing to address any problems and how they were solved
- Not incorporating sprint review feedback into the next sprint planning meeting
4. Sprint retrospective meeting
The retrospective is a crucial part of the agile process. The meeting comes at the end of the sprint, bringing the entire team together to assess their processes and discuss how they can improve next time.
Which aspects of the sprint went well, and what can you learn from that success? What didn’t go so well, and what bottlenecks did the team hit? What could be done better next time? Since agile is all about learning and iterating, there are lessons to be learned after each sprint. Everything from the good to the bad to the mediocre can be transformed into actionable improvements.
Retrospective mistakes to avoid:
- Blaming individual team members for bottlenecks
- Allowing only the loudest voices to provide insight
- Failing to empower the softer voices in the room
- Repeating the same questions over and over without changing things up
- Allowing the retrospective to run too long (aim for two hours for a two-week sprint)
- Skipping a retrospective due to a lack of time or resources
- Forgetting about or not including stakeholder insights or needs
- Failing to improve upon the sprint retrospective process (retrospective the retrospective!)
- Failing to incorporate retrospective insights in the next sprint
Bonus: Backlog refinement meeting
It could be argued that there’s a fifth agile meeting, especially in the product development world. Before the sprint planning meeting, the product owner must create a product backlog, which comprises all of the tasks and items the team needs to complete in order to fully develop the end product or project. The items include user stories, bug fixes, features, and other tasks that must be addressed to achieve the end goal.
Backlog refinement prepares the backlog for sprint planning by ordering items to deliver the most impact over the next sprint. During backlog refinement, a product owner ensures that product backlog items contain enough information, detail, and prioritization for the team to make smart decisions about what to tackle when.
A meeting to refine the backlog may occur before sprint planning begins, depending on the current state of the product backlog. Outside of the product development industry, the product backlog might be akin to a master project task list.
Backlog refinement meeting mistakes to avoid:
- Not completing backlog refinement in time for sprint planning
- Leaving too much backlog refinement for the planning meeting
- Failing to prioritize items that provide customer value
- Not incorporating new stakeholder feedback, questions, and concerns
Agile meetings: Final review
So there you have it! The four key agile meetings are sprint planning, daily standups, sprint reviews, and sprint retrospectives, with an honorable mention going out to backlog refinement.
Let’s review each meeting’s purpose:
- Sprint planning gets everyone on the same page about what needs to be accomplished over the course of the coming sprint.
- Daily standups ensure the team stays on track and helps them address and resolve any potential bottlenecks.
- Sprint reviews are an opportunity for the team to showcase the work accomplished during the sprint to stakeholders and receive critical feedback.
- Sprint retrospectives allow the team to come together to discuss what went well, what didn’t go well, and how they can improve next time.
- Backlog refinement prepares the backlog for sprint planning in order to deliver the most impact over the next sprint.
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