In 2020, 37% of software development teams used the Agile methodology to create their products.
In 2021, that number rose to 86%.
A growing number of teams inside and outside of software development are starting to adopt Agile as a way to prioritize stakeholder feedback and work quickly to implement it.
But 46% of businesses are struggling with establishing consistent Agile practices, preventing them from fully accessing the benefits of Agile.
In this guide, we’re going to get laser-focused on Agile ceremonies, which are the 4 specific meetings that bring structure to the most popular Agile framework — Scrum.
What are Agile ceremonies?
Agile ceremonies are meetings with defined lengths, frequencies, and goals. Their purpose is to help project teams plan, track, and engage stakeholders with their work and help them reflect on how well they’ve worked together. They’re typically a part of the Scrum framework of Agile.
As a quick reminder, projects that follow the Scrum framework deliver work in short bursts called sprints. Each sprint has a specific goal and lasts, on average, 2 weeks.
The Scrum framework has several defined roles. One of them — the Product Owner — maintains and prioritizes a list of required project deliverables, known as the product backlog.
The Product Owner’s role is to represent the interest of business stakeholders and, at the beginning of each sprint, work with the project team to decide which deliverable should be tackled next.
There are 4 core meetings — termed ceremonies — that happen during each sprint.
When managed correctly, these ceremonies support high levels of productivity and effective communication and collaboration between the project team and its stakeholders.
4 key Agile ceremonies
Now that we’ve got a handle on exactly what Agile ceremonies are and their purpose, let’s look at each ceremony in a little more detail.
1. Sprint planning ceremony
Goal: establish the desired outcome for the upcoming sprint, define what backlog items can be accomplished, and determine how to achieve each item
Participants: the entire Scrum team, including the Product Owner
Frequency: at the beginning of each sprint, usually every 1–4 weeks, depending on the sprint length
Length: 2–6 hours, depending on the length of the sprint
Sprint planning meetings set out precisely what the team will accomplish during the sprint.
It’s the responsibility of the Product Owner to liaise with the business in advance of this meeting and bring their feedback, plus the updated, prioritized product backlog, to the meeting.
However, the project team doesn’t automatically take all of the top priority items from the product backlog.
The requirements of the business need to be balanced with the capacity of each project team member. This means the sprint planning meeting can require some negotiation before the sprint backlog is fully agreed upon.
The sprint backlog is the list of tasks or product features that will be delivered during the sprint. Once it’s finalized, it’s crystal clear precisely what will be tackled during the sprint and by whom.
Typically, the sprint planning meeting will last around 2 hours for every week of the sprint. So a 2-week sprint would have a 4-hour sprint planning meeting.
In monday.com, it’s simple to stay on top of your sprint planning. Our customizable boards and drag-and-drop functionality allow you to move items easily between your product and sprint backlogs.
You can organize tasks by priority, note the expected timeline, and assign task owners.
As the sprint progresses, the entire team will be able to track progress or make updates as needed.
2. Daily Scrum ceremony
Goal: ensure the project team has shared visibility of how the sprint is progressing
Participants: project team, Product Owner (optional), Scrum Master (optional)
Length: no more than 15 minutes
It’s no surprise that the daily Scrum ceremony is the most popular Agile ceremony. Often called a daily stand-up, 87% of organizations use this ceremony.
During the stand-up, each team member provides a brief update on what they’ve completed over the last 24 hours, what they plan to tackle next, and any roadblocks getting in the way of their work.
If the project team includes a Scrum Master, they’ll take note of these challenges. One of the Scrum Master’s core responsibilities is to remove blockages for the team and help them move forward with their work.
This brief meeting enables excellent communication among the Scrum team. With a daily review of the team’s progress, everyone stays motivated and aware of the sprint’s progress.
This is why it’s also called the daily stand-up — to keep the meeting short, it’s recommended you don’t even sit down. This is, by the way, only one of the faults you need to stay away from when it comes to daily scrum meetings.
3. Sprint review
Goal: discuss and demo work completed, celebrate and highlight accomplishments, and determine next actions
Participants: entire Scrum team, Product Owner, business stakeholders
Frequency: end of each sprint, typically every 1–4 weeks
Length: up to an hour per week of the sprint, i.e., 2-hour meeting for a 2-week sprint
The sprint review meeting is an opportunity for the project team to showcase what they’ve achieved during the sprint to key business stakeholders.
The Product Owner facilitates the sprint review and seeks feedback from the business on progress-to-date and what items need to be prioritized next.
In monday.com, you can update your product backlog in real-time based on the feedback received from stakeholders.
Which is much more efficient than the Product Owner having to jot down all the new requirements and then go away and make the changes.
All the information gathered during this meeting is then fed into the sprint planning meeting at the start of the next sprint.
4. Sprint retrospective
Goal: understand what worked and what didn’t in the last sprint, with a focus on increasing quality and effectiveness
Participants: entire project team
Frequency: end of each sprint, usually every 1–4 weeks
Length: as long as is required, 2–3 hours is about average
Where the sprint review focuses on project progress, the sprint retrospective meeting analyzes the workings of the team.
This ceremony helps Scrum teams focus on the parts of their process that are working well and identify areas of weakness they may need to improve. This is essential, as continuous improvement is a core principle of Agile methodologies.
Sprint retrospectives can be challenging because they require the project team to honestly appraise how well they’re working together.
It requires trust between team members and — for best results — is the one meeting that business stakeholders definitely shouldn’t attend.
It can be tempting to skip the retrospective after an excellent sprint but don’t let them slide.
Even experienced Scrum teams benefit from thinking critically about why their work went well, rather than leaving it to chance next time.
You can use a sprint retrospective board on monday.com to capture improvements and get feedback on action items from the entire team.
Once the sprint retrospective is over, set deadlines for completing each action item and assign owners. With monday.com’s automations, it’s simple to set up email notifications to alert the whole team on progress as the task’s status changes.
3 challenges of running Agile ceremonies
Although it’s easy enough to follow the format for these ceremonies, there are still a few things you might need to stay on top of, especially in less experienced Scrum teams.
Take a look at these 3 challenges you might face and tips for managing them.
1. Getting sidetracked
Establishing an effective ceremonies routine can take some getting used to if your organization is new to Agile practices.
Off-topic discussions were rated as the number one challenge associated with business meetings in a recent survey. So, the ability to get laser-focused during ceremonies might take a significant culture shift.
For example, during sprint planning, even with a well-prioritized backlog, some discussion has to occur about what items might be carried forward to the next sprint.
Maybe some tasks need to be completed simultaneously, or perhaps there just isn’t the capacity to do everything that’s prioritized in a single sprint. These discussions can end up as rabbit holes unless the meeting is well-managed.
Which is another challenge as Scrum teams are, by their nature, self-organizing, which means no one has a responsibility to chair the sprint planning meetings. With experience and discipline, the team will be able to keep the discussion on track, but it does take practice.
The same is true of the daily stand-ups.
These are only 15 minutes long for a reason. They should clearly focus on what’s been done in the last 24 hours and what will be tackled over the next 24 hours. Nothing more, nothing less.
Anything that requires more information or a discussion between 2 or more team members should be noted and followed up outside the daily stand-up.
2. Bringing the right people together
You’ve already seen that certain ceremonies require specific people to be in the room, and for a good reason.
The goal of each ceremony is different, and bringing the right people together is the only way to ensure that goal is met.
For some ceremonies, that also means not having certain people in the room.
Creating an environment in your sprint retrospective that allows your team to discuss things that didn’t go well will be challenging if you’ve got business stakeholders in the room.
No one wants to be the one to identify a catalog of errors while their customer is sitting there.
In the same way, the Product Owner is totally vital for sprint planning. They are the bridge between the project team and the requirements of the business.
If they’re not there, it’s almost impossible for the project team to decide what should be prioritized from the backlog with any degree of certainty.
All of this means everyone in the project team and the wider business needs to be clear on their roles and responsibilities and committed to making the sprint structure work.
Which can be challenging for businesses that are new to Agile.
To make things clear, you can create a shared resource in monday.com workdocs that documents specific guidelines for your organization’s different Agile team roles.
You can also create a roadmap that shows how the individual sprints align with other tasks.
For example, you could overlap the meeting schedule from the project communication plan or note when activities such as end-user training might need to take place.
This helps everyone in the business stay connected with the project and its implementation as a whole and makes sure everything fits together seamlessly.
3. Not learning from your experienceContinuous improvement is a core principle of the Agile methodology. It’s why the sprint retrospective is baked into the Scrum framework. But conducting a retrospective is only useful if the meeting is more than just talking shop.
It’s essential to follow through on action items that are recorded. If something went well, reinforce it. If something went poorly, brainstorm how to remedy it next time.
While ownership of actions can be assigned — and can help keep the changes front and center during the next sprint — the responsibility for making the change is shared among all team members.
If you find you’re raising the same issues in every sprint retrospective, you probably need to get honest about how committed you are to doing things differently.
If Agile ceremonies are new to your part of the business, don’t be afraid to look for more experienced mentors, either within or external to the company, who can offer some guidance to steer you away from common pitfalls.
On monday.com, it’s easy to view, share, annotate, and @tag colleagues for their input.
Plus, you can set permissions that allow access to be limited to specific users, both inside and outside the organization.
So it’s simple to share the outcome of your sprint retrospective with more experienced Scrum teams and ask their advice on what worked for them.
How to manage Agile projects on monday.com
Just 64% of Agile teams use a project management tool, which leaves a lot of teams missing out.
An Agile project management software solution keeps the entire team on the same page with task assignments, upcoming deadlines, and planned work.
monday.com is a Work OS, which can do more than just manage your projects. It’s a total work management solution that allows you to manage things in the same place you get them done.
As well as everything you’ve seen already, there are several more ways that monday.com can help you build ceremonies into your workflows.
- Customizable templates: we’ve over 200 fully customizable templates to help you plan, manage, and control your Agile products.
- Automations: it’s simple to set up “if this, then that” automations in monday.com to keep your work flowing smoothly and get rid of routine administrative tasks.
- Integrations: with over 40 native integrations and the ability to access over 3,000 more through Zapier, it’s simple to integrate your favorite tools into the monday.com platform.
- Visually-engaging dashboards: our colorful dashboards offer 8 different ways to report your data, so you can always view it in a way that works for your team and your stakeholders.
Whether that’s tracking progress during a sprint or seeing what you’ve achieved during a sprint review, we’ve got the dashboard for you.
Run Agile ceremonies for better project outcomes
Agile ceremonies provide a structured way to track and encourage progress on your project, especially for Scrum teams.
By conducting these ceremonies regularly, your team will improve their communication and efficiency, helping deliver better projects and happier customers.
With a monday.com sprint planning template, you can start managing your Agile ceremonies right now.