There’s no denying the importance that communication has when it comes to the success of an agile project. Perhaps there’s no more implemented tactic for improving agile team communication than holding various Scrum meetings.
Scrum meetings typically include the daily scrum, sprint planning meeting, sprint review meeting, and retrospective. These meetings aim to increase productivity and reduce rework by improving and enhancing the level of daily communication. Doing so helps teams stay on the same page, properly break down work into small and manageable tasks, and keep everything running smoothly.
However, Scrum meetings can go wrong very quickly if they are not done properly. Participants sometimes don’t understand how to make these meetings productive.
Here are eight common Scrum meeting mistakes you should try to avoid.
1. Thinking that holding Scrum meetings is easy
This is easily the most common mistake made. Far too many teams engage in Scrum meetings believing that they’re easy and that they know how to do them properly without any training or practice. Thinking this is a sure-fire way to waste time without even realizing it.
Go into every Scrum meeting prepared and with purpose. Stay on track and keep the meeting to the desired length. Make sure everyone understands why you are there and what the outcome should be.
2. Trying to take control
The reason we hold Scrum meetings is to get everyone on the team invested in the Scrum process and keep information flowing. When someone takes control of these meetings and starts to dictate results and direction, team communication often breaks down. A ScrumMaster should facilitate Scrum meetings, but the team should collectively drive them forward.
3. Not addressing problems and obstacles
One of the biggest benefits of Scrum meetings is getting everyone together and taking the opportunity to discuss potential problems and obstacles they’re coming up against. However, if you’re not raising these issues, they won’t be addressed, or you won’t have enough time to address them properly. While it may not be appropriate to address problems in all meetings, they should still be raised so the team can address them afterward.
4. Not remembering the agile principles
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “doing agile” versus “being agile.” Simply following practices while forgetting the principles behind them will often result in unproductive Scrum meetings. Revisit the agile principles occasionally and compare the activities you do with the spirit of agile to keep your meetings aligned with their agile purposes.
5. Holding ineffective daily scrums
One of the most important aspects of communication in Scrum is the daily scrum meeting, or daily stand-up. It is designed to keep everyone on the team on the same page at all times while tracking progress, identifying obstacles that must be overcome, and getting team members clarifications on outstanding issues. Unfortunately, daily scrums often devolve into status reporting instead of collaborative discussion about the work committed to.
To keep the team productive, make sure daily scrums start and stop on time and the meeting lasts no more than fifteen minutes. Have structure, and answer only three questions: What did I do yesterday? What will I do today? What blockers or issues do I have?
6. Working with an unready product backlog
Having an unready product backlog is a big point of failure when it comes to sprints because everyone feels like they’re not providing value. Instead, take the time to groom the backlog well ahead of any Scrum meetings that rely on it so that it is ready for the team to work against. If, during retrospectives, it is noted that the backlog is too high-level or stories are vague, break the stories down further and set better exception criteria next time.
7. Skipping improvement meetings
In Scrum, retrospectives are designed for the team to reflect on everything that’s happened and then brainstorm about how to improve their Scrum process. However, many teams skip retrospectives or don’t do them regularly. Often they will argue that they don’t have time to do them or that they are just gripe sessions that aren’t productive.
But retrospectives should be one of the most important parts of the Scrum process, as without them, necessary process improvements will never be made. Make sure retrospectives are done at the end of each sprint, and instead of creating a laundry list of issues that never get resolved, brainstorm about the issues and then have the team vote on the highest-priority ones to correct. Focus improvement on those next.
8. Overcomplicating meetings
Sometimes, instead of underplanning, we overplan meetings. It’s good to want to be prepared for each Scrum meeting, but it’s important to remember to keep the meeting agenda simple and not to overcomplicate them with complex charts or tons of information on the walls before you even start.
When a Scrum meeting gets overly complex, everybody’s attention can be drawn away from the meeting’s purpose, and the intent of the meeting is lost. Keep things as simple and as streamlined as possible.