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Scrum meetings – Do you feel it’s a pain?

Scrum is one of the most adopted AGILE methodologies in the industry. Scrum practitioners are also very active when it comes to organizing conferences, sharing knowledge and helping fellow practitioners in the industry. It is one of the most rapidly evolving methodologies. Experiences have shaped some best practices which many practitioners promote. Frequent scrum-meeting is one such practice which the practitioners speak a lot about and lay a huge emphasis on. However the question is – Is everyone in the team happy with the practice of meeting daily?

Some of the common questions / concerns that I have heard include

  • Why do I feel that I spend more time in meetings and less time in core development tasks?
  • Why do I have to give status so frequently? Don’t product owners trust us?
  • Daily calls are just too-much. At times I don’t have any significant update to share with the team.
  • At times I feel that the team is discussing the same things again and again.

Let’s go a little deeper in the problem areas.

What’s actually happening in meetings?

  • Meetings are crossing the stipulated time lines of 10-15 min
  • Details are being discussed in meetings
  • Increasing one-to-one communication: Only identify solutions in these meetings and don’t discuss on detailed implementation.
  • Roles are getting exchanged causing disturbance to team dynamics: At times new scrum masters can be overshadowed by experienced members of scrum teams and thus can cause cross alignment of roles. This may create friction in the team and impact smooth functioning of the same.

Scrum meetings – Their actual purpose:

The primary purpose of scrum calls is to make sure that nothing is stuck and things are rolling in the direction as desired and as per the pace that is expected. The purpose is not to monitor team members or micro manage things but to set the team on the right track and bring members back to track in case product owner finds a misalignment between the plan and what is being executed.

How to get away with common mistakes and be more productive?

  • Experiment – Succeed – Implement: The primary purpose of Agile is to have flexibility in systems and the way things are operating in the team. The idea is to have incremental improvement. So if a team member has a solution to a problem, it can be experimented and based on its success, it can be implemented in the team. Each experiment that yields a positive solution will make the process streamlined and product development faster.
  • Iterations: For many teams the iteration mode of working may not suit well. Some cycles may just require a week while others may require more than a month to complete. Also documentation and it-operations related work may not match the iteration mode of working. In such situations dropping iteration mode of working shouldn’t impact and can lead to positive outcomes.
  • Limit: Limit the number of meetings and yet try to cover all important things through some or the other meetings. Agile demands three types of meetings, scrum meetings (10-15 mins daily), sprint planning meeting (2-4 hour meeting per sprint) and sprint review meeting (1-2 hour meeting). If one follows this approach and schedule, he should be able to cover all essential aspects through limted number of meetings.
  • Pre-set agenda: When the team is new, they should be kept well aware of the agenda of the meeting and should focus on keeping the meeting limited to a set agenda. This will avoid any spill overs and would allow the meetings to get over on time.
  • It is very essential to maintain a clear distinction of roles played by different scrum participants and they play the role of what is expected out of them. This not only helps in proper team functioning but also doesn’t impact product development. It may take time to start things initially with new scrum masters but maintaining the right role distinction and setting expectations correctly will help in producing the required output and thus the right solution.

Thus scrum meetings though may initially appear to be lot more than the meetings in the traditional models; they are designed to eventually save time that is lost in wastage and mistakes. Frequent communications keep every stakeholder informed about the progress and status of the project. Customer is kept well informed about the product that is being developed for him. He can quickly suggest a change if something is developed which doesn’t match his expectations. Thus his quick feedback early in the cycle can eventually save a lot of time for the team. Scrum is designed powerfully to ensure that the time invested in meetings is optimal; Sticking to its stipulated schedule and staying focused during the meetings can eventually save time and may not raise meeting related issues within the team.

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