Scrum Meetings and Best Practices

This article explains the best practices for holding Scrum meetings —daily standup, sprint planning, iteration review, retrospective, and product backlog refinement— and the average time they take. Make sure you know what you pay for when you next get an invoice...


Marketing Manager with Attract Group

We all know the feeling. You’re in a meeting that seems like it’s going to last forever. It’s not going anywhere, and no one seems to even remember why the meeting was convened in the first place. While this may be a familiar scene, this is not a description of a scrum meeting. On the contrary, scrum meetings are dynamic yet structured events that allow teams to plan, create goals, and deliver on those goals. In short, scrum meetings are crucial to getting your project done right and on time.

In this article, we’ll define and describe five different types of scrum meetings—daily standup, sprint planning, iteration review, retrospective, and product backlog refinement—and provide helpful information to keep in mind for each. What’s the basic function of each meeting, and who’s involved? What kinds of questions are discussed? How long does each last? We’ll also discuss the value of each meeting. Finally, we’ll conclude with some scrum best practices and optimizations you can include in your next meeting.

Daily Standup

The daily scrum meeting—or standups—are short, timeboxed meetings that occur every day. Typically, these meetings are held at the same place and time. Generally, the scrum master should keep these meetings on-task and restricted to only the status of tasks and any critical blockages that are preventing a team member from moving forward. The purpose of these meetings is to obtain a critical overview of everyone’s progress and immediate work along with, again, anything impeding progress.

Therefore everyone involved in the tasks involved in the sprint should be present.

What kinds of questions are asked in these meetings? There are three important ones:

  • What did you just accomplish?
  • What do you plan to do today?
  • What’s standing in your way?

Answers to these questions go a long way in providing the scrum master with a clear overview of the team’s progress while they also help anyone who’s stuck get unstuck. That’s the critical value of the daily standup—it gets things going. In terms of duration, this meeting’s a quickie. Just 15 minutes should do the trick.

Sprint Planning

The sprint planning meeting is one of the most important meetings. It happens at the beginning of each sprint, and its purpose is to decide which tasks will be done during the current sprint. This can mean bringing tasks out of the backlog, or returning to tasks that are leftover from a previous sprint. At this point, questions should be limited to specifics about each task such as the time and effort required for each.

The attendees of the sprint planning meeting include the scrum team: the product owner, development team, and the scrum master.

The time of the sprint planning meeting can vary for each project, but you should use a consistent calculation. For instance, use twice as many hours as the length of the sprint in weeks—so if the sprint length is one week, the sprint planning meeting is two hours.

In terms of value, sprint planning is the alpha and omega of sprint meetings: it lays the foundation for things to come.

Iteration/Review

The sprint review (also known as a sprint iteration) is an event that allows work to be exhibited to stakeholders as an indication of progress. These meetings allow stakeholders to obtain a preview of the product before it is released officially. They include the product owner, development team, and scrum master, along with various attendees from the client side who are interested in viewing the work-in-progress.

Questions that arise can relate to product functionality or any other issues with the product.

The duration of the review/iteration sprint should be one hour for every week of the sprint in question. For example, a two-week sprint gets a two-hour review.

The value of the review/iteration sprint is tremendous in that it gives both the team and the stakeholders a sense of what to expect. They all get to have a “hands on” preview of the product in advance.

Sprint Retrospective

The sprint retrospective (or simply, the “retro”) is a concluding scrum meeting in which the entire team has a chance to reflect on the completed product.

During this process, the scrum master and the development team can make a note of positive aspects as well as pain points and areas for improvement.

Other than the scrum master and developers, no one else should be present for the retro. Typical questions arise like:

  • What did we do well?
  • How can we improve?

The retro typically lasts a half-hour for two-week sprint and 3 for one-month sprints. The value of the retro is crucial for the functioning of any team: it gives everyone a yardstick to measure success and weakness.

Product Backlog Refinement

The last meeting we’ll discuss here is product backlog refinement. This meeting is a preparation for the next sprint where items are prioritized after a discussion to refine the requirements and deliverables for each task.

Questions for these meetings can include anything that gives the team clarity about a task such as: what was the client asking for with this feature? Do we have a clear idea of it?

The length of the backlog refinement meeting should be twice the number of weeks in hours: so for a one-week sprint, a two-hour backlog meeting.

Its value lies in the preparation it gives your team to move ahead.

Best Practices

It’s important not only to be aware of the different types of scrum meetings, but also to adhere to a set of best practices for conducting each of these meetings efficiently.

  1. Use detailed agendas. It’s important to come to each meeting with a detailed outline of what you want to discuss and accomplish. Insist that the meeting sticks to this agenda, but provide room for added questions and discussion at the end.
  2. Retros after every sprint. Remember to do this. They’re healthy and a great value for the team.
  3. Be punctual. Losing time waiting for attendees costs valuable resources and can hold projects up. Insist that meetings start and end on time.
  4. Quick dailies. Limit dailies to 15 minutes. Strictly timebox these meetings, and stay focused on the content.

Meetings are the backbone of the scrum process. Without them, projects would lack cohesion, and blockages would go mostly unchecked. Stay on top of scrum meetings, and feel free to use this article as a guide. Have any further ideas or questions? Contact us to share them.

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