What are Agile Ceremonies?

By Mark Carpenter - August 30, 2018

What are Agile Ceremonies?
August 30, 2018 By Mark Carpenter

What are Agile Ceremonies?

At this point, the term "Agile Ceremonies" is actually considered an outdated Scrum term. The term has shifted to be called “Events”. The new term was first introduced in the 2011 Scrum Guide and has stuck ever since.


What are Agile Events

In simple terms, Events are the meetings prescribed to carry out the Scrum framework, and are what give Scrum its regularity and structure. They encompass all of the meetings required to maintain the cyclical process that allows Scrum teams to inspect and adapt.  Each event has its own specific purpose, cadence, and time-box. Which allows teams to maximize the productivity of each meeting, given the expected outcome of each event is clearly defined. By providing a designated time-box for each event, the team can better protect their time against never ending meetings and tangents.  



agile ceremonies

The Sprint is where all events within Scrum fit.  The time-box for a Sprint is 30-days or less, with most teams finding two week sprints to be ideal. Simply put, the Sprint is the amount of time your team will consistently use to build out their next increment of work or functionality.  They may decide on a sprint length of two-weeks, three-weeks, or a whole month, but they should not go beyond one-month sprints. Otherwise, they're minimizing their ability to inspect and adapt, as well as removing their ability to remain flexible to unknown risks and changes. 


Daily Scrum

The Daily Scrum, sometimes referred to as the Daily Standup, has a time-box for 15 minutes or less, and is specifically for the benefit of the development team. The goal of this event is for the team to get in sync on a daily basis, allowing for better collaboration and transparency. The Daily Scrum should be held at the same time each day and should not include anyone outside of the Scrum Team. Traditionally, the Daily Scrum involves each team member answering three questions:

  • What did I achieve yesterday to help us meet our Sprint Goal?

  • What do I hope to achieve today to help us meet our Sprint Goal?  

  • Do I see any impediments that prevent me or my team from achieving our Sprint Goal?


Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning is used to determine what the team will accomplish in the upcoming Sprint. The event itself has two parts. The first half of Sprint Planning is used to determine 'What' the team will be working on, by pulling items from their Backlog into their Sprint Backlog.  The second half of Sprint Planning is when the Development Team determines 'How' they will accomplish the work that's been pulled into the Sprint Backlog.

For a one-month Sprint, the team should have an eight hour time-box for Sprint Planning. For shorter sprints, the time-box can be less. A two-week Sprint for example, would have a time-box of four hours. As a two week sprint is half the size of a one-month sprint, therefore, Sprint Planning should take half the time. 


Sprint Review

The Sprint Review is when the team presents their work from the Sprint to the project's stakeholders. It should cover not only the work they accomplished, but also open discussions around the work they were not able to complete.

The attendees of this event should include anyone with a vested interest in the project. Particularly stakeholders, clients, and end-users. The event allows the team to provide an update on their progress as well as demonstrate new functionality to the stakeholders for feedback. The team's Product Owner will use the feedback to build out and re-prioritize the backlog for the upcoming Sprints.

Like in Sprint Planning, the time box for a Sprint Review is dependent on the length of the Sprint.  If you have a one-month Sprint, the duration is four hours. For a two-week Sprint, it is two hours.


Sprint Retrospective

The Sprint Retrospective is the primary event in which the Scrum Team can inspect and adapt their approaches based on their experiences from the previous sprints. Retrospectives can be held using a large variety of games, questions, and exercises; but at it's core, the Sprint Retrospective helps the team to determine: What worked well in the last sprint? What did not work well? And what can be implemented into the next Sprint to improve how the Scrum Team does it's work?

Retrospectives allow the team to consistantly improve from one Sprint to the next. When determining your team's ideal Sprint length, it's wise to keep Sprint Retrospectives in mind. As the length of your Sprint determines how often the team can inspect and adapt.

As with other Events, the time-box for the Sprint Retrospective is dependent on the lenght of the Sprint. For a one-month Sprint, the time-box is three hours.  For smaller Sprints, the time-box is less.

Events create a cadence in which the team can maximize their productivity, maintian transparency, collaboration, and most importantly, inspect and adapt on the way they work. When done as prescribed, Scrum Teams can consistently accomplish twice the work in half the time.