How Do You Conduct a Scrum Meeting?

When you hear the word “meeting,” what comes to mind? Let’s picture it. A large conference room table surrounded by people completely checked out. Karen is watching a video of cats eating cheeseburgers. Larry sips his coffee and counts ceiling tiles. And Jason? Jason started sketching a comic book from the second he first walked in. Not exactly awe-inspiring.

So, what is a Scrum meeting and what should a Scrum meeting really look like? 

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What is a Scrum Meeting?

If you’re wondering what a scrum meeting is, we don’t know either, because it’s ACTUALLY called a Scrum event

And why is it an event? We’ll explain. Too often, meetings are called without a clear objective and end up being 60 minutes of wasted time. That’s why a Scrum event is time-boxed. In most cases, the length of the conversation is capped. Some need only be 15 minutes while others are a few hours depending on the goal of the meeting. 

Every Scrum event is an opportunity to inspect and adapt with clear objectives and outcomes.

Purpose of a Daily Scrum Event

The biggest victim of the “meeting that should’ve been an event” phenomenon tends to be the Daily Scrum. This 15-minute timebox allows Developers to inspect their progress, enabling them to quickly come up with a game plan for tackling the project’s next steps. However, because the Daily Scrum occurs so frequently, any wasted time can add up quickly, so it’s important to establish a consistent rhythm for keeping things brief. 

You can think of your Daily Scrum like a huddle during a football game. The primary objectives share plenty of overlap— you’re looking to define team priorities, coordinate individual actions, and get everyone excited and energized about the work they’re performing all while the clock is still running. 

Most importantly, the Daily Scrum only goes as long as it needs to go with pressure to get it done sooner, then it’s time to get back to work. Imagine if huddles and timeouts were unlimited in length. At a certain point, your players are likely to lose focus one what to do next and might even forget the playbook. Fans would get impatient with the lack of action. Coaches would struggle to keep everyone motivated. No one wants to sit in a huddle for hours when the action is in the field. 

So, if no one on the team has anything to add, move on. 

Creating a Successful “Scrum Meeting”

Even when everyone recognizes the benefits of working quickly and efficiently, we’re all creatures of habit. Something tells us that the meeting is going to be boring so be prepared with alternate entertainment. This is when the Scrum Master must take the time to help team members truly understand how Scrum events help them accomplish their goals, even when things get off to a rough start. 

Professional Scrum trainer Simon Bourk recounts his struggle to get a Development team to adopt the Nexus framework for scaling Scrum— particularly when it came to seeing the value of their Daily Scrums. By emphasizing Scrum’s first principles and pointing out the failures of previous systems, however, Bourk eventually led the team to fully embrace the Daily Scrum mentality. 

Here are a few best practices to help your team feel comfortable leaving their phones behind not load up on coffee for fear they might nod off mid-meeting:  

1. Stop wasting time

Don’t make chaos out of something that is inherently predictable. Everything about the Daily Scrum meeting is meant to minimize complexity, from holding it at the same time and place to always sticking to the 15-minute timebox. 

Not every Scrum meeting happens daily— only the Daily Scrum does, so it’s even more essential to keep things focused and consistent. Let the Development team choose the best time for their schedule. The Daily Scrum is their event and focuses almost entirely on facilitating collaboration and communication within the group. This can only take place if the team feels true ownership over the meeting, so picking the most suitable time for them gives them a greater sense of empowerment.

2. Relentless focus on the objectives of the meeting

Don’t allow irrelevant topics to creep into the conversation, and ensure that the activities being discussed are truly adding value. The setting of your Daily Scrum can be a major driver of focus or it can be a major distraction, so be sure to carefully consider the best place to meet each day. 

Minimize ambient noise and casual conversation, and define clear goals to drive the topics of discussion. It’s easy to lose the meeting to discussions of dinner last night, Karen’s cat problems, or upcoming holidays. Don’t let it happen. This is 15-minutes of extremely focused time. See if you can finish it in less than 15 minutes by focusing only on the purpose of the event!

Use a central task board as a “communication driver” to encourage collaboration and participation, and toss a ball around to inject the dialogue with more energy and structure. Also, it’s harder to catch a ball while holding a phone. Remember, engagement and focus go hand in hand.

3. Understand why we’re meeting

Once everyone on the team is focused and ready to make good use of their time, don’t forget to underscore the true purpose of the event. Remember that Scrum is founded on empiricism, and every meeting is an opportunity to inspect and adapt.

When it comes to making concrete progress, you’ll need to take a results-focused approach— reflect soberly on the team’s achievements with respect to the Sprint Goal, and discuss how their inputs and outputs can be optimized to create better collaboration and communication habits. 

Most importantly, ensure everyone is aligned in their understanding of what you’re working towards. If any team member can’t tell you how their efforts are contributing to a common objective (the Sprint Goal), you’ve probably screwed up.

Support from Experts 

Adoption of Scrum doesn’t happen overnight and if it did, a lot more teams would be using it. Implementing this framework involves complex change management, and much of this change is driven by the people within your organization. As a result, you should expect to get a fair amount of pushback. No one likes a useless 60-minute meeting but Karen also doesn’t want someone telling her that her cat videos are going to have to wait. 

It takes vision and experience to build a sustainable Scrum culture, and for some organizations, finding the right leadership can present its own challenges.

This is precisely why it’s so important to be able to lean on the support of industry experts. Smart people can certainly learn from mistakes, but wise people learn from the mistakes of others. Relying on those who have experience with implementing Scrum can make it far easier to bootstrap a culture of transformation, sidestepping the most common roadblocks and misconceptions. 

Responsive Advisors fits this role like a glove. With a team of seasoned Scrum professionals and a track record of implementation successes, our team provides best-of-class training and personalized coaching, meeting every need throughout your transition to an agile organization. 

We’ll help you identify common challenges, lean into best practices, and take charge of the chaos that inevitably comes with adopting Scrum. This allows your team to continue iterating in a proactive, agile way, rather than getting hung up on details that simply don’t matter. If you’re ready to jumpstart your organization’s path to these new ways of working, Responsive Advisors is the perfect guide.

Robert Pieper

Robert Pieper has been a licensed Professional Scrum Trainer since 2014 and National Public Speaker since 2013. Robb holds an MBA from Marquette University and an Electrical Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering. Robb has 15 years of professional software development experience with a passion for making Scrum work delivering real products and services
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