An Agile ceremony is an event in the Agile process when your team meets to discuss what their next course of action is. Learn more about the four major Agile ceremonies and how they're used to tackle projects during the sprint cycle.
Ceremonies are a moment of celebration. Graduation ceremonies are a chance to celebrate completing a certain amount of education. A marriage ceremony is a celebration of love and union. The Olympics hold opening and closing ceremonies to celebrate the competition of skilled athletes.
These celebrations all happen fairly consistently at key milestones of our lives. The term “Agile ceremony” comes from the concept of celebrating key milestones. However, they are less about celebrations and more about establishing consistent checkpoints in a project’s lifecycle.
An Agile ceremony is an event in the Agile process when your team meets to discuss what their next course of action is. It’s a fancy term to describe a normal meeting during the Agile process. The primary focus of an Agile ceremony is to increase communication within an Agile or Scrum team to ensure everyone is on the same page. These ceremonies are often facilitated by product owners or Scrum masters.
There are four main Agile ceremonies: the sprint planning meeting, the daily stand-up meeting, the sprint review meeting, and the sprint retrospective meeting. Before each of these ceremonies take place, all team members should know this key information:
Who on the development team is involved in this ceremony?
When does this ceremony begin?
How long does this ceremony take?
What happens in this ceremony?
What is the expected outcome?
A sprint is a fixed period of time when a team works towards specific deliverables. Sprints typically last two weeks and are a core component of Agile project management frameworks, which are commonly used by product, engineering, or software development teams. Working in sprints gives teams an opportunity to iterate and continuously improve their processes—because when a sprint ends, the team records and incorporates their learnings into the next sprint.
Below, we’ll dive further into the four main Agile ceremonies and explain how to answer each of these questions.
There are four major Agile ceremonies that happen during every sprint cycle. Before starting each ceremony, your team members should understand the purpose of each meeting and how it impacts the sprint.
The sprint planning meeting is when the development team takes the time to plan out what work will be completed during the upcoming sprint.
Who's involved? The development team, Scrum master (if your team is using Scrum), or the product owner.
When does this ceremony happen? At the beginning of each sprint.
How long does this ceremony take? Approximately one hour per week of work. If your sprints commonly take place over two weeks, spring planning should take approximately two hours.
What framework is this ceremony commonly used in? The sprint planning meeting is used in both the Scrum and Kanban methodologies. Most Agile methodologies have some form of sprint planning, even if there isn't a whole dedicated ceremony for it.
What happens in this meeting? The product owner or Scrum master works with the development team to identify items the team will focus on for the current sprint goals. These items are traditionally pulled from the product backlog. During Scrum, this is when the team assigns story point estimates to tasks to gauge how long each backlog item will take to complete.
What is the expected outcome of this ceremony? By the end of the sprint planning meeting, everybody on the development team should know the end goal of the sprint and what specific items are going into the sprint backlog.
The daily stand-up meeting is a meeting for the development team to update fellow team members on what they’re working on.
Who's involved? The development team, Scrum master (if applicable), and the product owner.
When does this ceremony happen? Once per day, typically at the very beginning of the work day before everyone can dive into their tasks.
How long does this ceremony take? Approximately 15 minutes. Daily standups should be very quick and shouldn't require you to book a conference room or share your screen.
What framework is this ceremony commonly used in? Most Agile frameworks have some form of daily standup meeting so teams can easily check in with each other on what they're working on for the day.
What happens in this meeting? Everyone on the development team, including the product owner and Scrum master, discuss three main points: what they completed yesterday, what they're working on today, and if they have any blockers in their way.
What is the expected outcome of this ceremony? The intended goal here is for everyone on the development team to touch base with each other. If someone on the development team has a blocker, the Scrum master or product owner will work with that developer. This happens after the meeting to prevent the daily stand-up meeting from becoming too long.
The sprint review meeting is an opportunity for the development team to receive feedback from key stakeholders of a project. If there are adjustments that need to be made, the Scrum master or product manager will adjust the sprint backlog for the next sprint.
Who's involved? The development team, Scrum master, and product owner are all required to attend this meeting. Key stakeholders such as management or end customers are also be present during this meeting to provide feedback.
When does this ceremony happen? This ceremony happens at the end of the sprint when all tasks are completed, but before the sprint retrospective occurs.
How long does this ceremony take? Similar to sprint planning, this meeting should last about an hour for every week the sprint lasts. If you have a two-week sprint, you will have roughly a two-hour meeting.
What framework is this ceremony commonly used in? This framework is used in both Scrum and Kanban methods. For Kanban and other Agile methods, reviews may happen at the end of a project, instead of at the end of a sprint.
What happens in this meeting? The goal of this meeting is to receive feedback on the work the development team completed during this sprint. The Scrum master or product owner organizes the meeting, showcases the team’s completed work, and facilitates questions from external stakeholders who are not on the development team.
What is the expected outcome of this ceremony? This ceremony is an opportunity for both internal and, if necessary, external stakeholders to give feedback and ask questions about the end product. You may want to call external stakeholders if you’re an agency developing something for a client. The Scrum master may use this opportunity to work with stakeholders to figure out if the product backlog needs adjustment.
The sprint retrospective meeting is an opportunity for team members to reflect on the past sprint and think about what went well and what could be improved for next time.
Who's involved? The development team, Scrum master, or product owner. Anybody who actively worked on tasks throughout the sprint should attend this meeting.
When does this ceremony happen? This happens at the very end of a sprint, after a sprint review meeting.
How long does this ceremony take? This meeting should take about 45 minutes per week the sprint lasts. If you have a two-week sprint, your sprint retrospective meeting should be about an hour and a half long.
What framework is this ceremony commonly used in? Retrospectives are commonly used in Scrum and Kanban. Teams who use Kanban may hold retrospectives at the end of each project, rather than at the end of each sprint.
What happens in this meeting? This is when the development team takes some time to look at the team's progress this sprint. The team reflects on what went well and what they can do better for future sprints.
What is the expected outcome of this ceremony? The goal of this ceremony is to identify key points for iteration. If team members can find something to change and improve for the upcoming sprint, they should share that with the entire team. Some Agile methodologies rely on continuous improvement, and retrospectives are an integral part of that process.
Agile ceremonies are just a fancier way of naming meetings. Follow a few of these tips to keep your meetings running more smoothly.
All items in the sprint backlog should have a user story attached to them so the developer working on that item has all of the context they need to develop the task properly. A user story is a small description of how a product should function, written from the perspective of the end user. This helps the development team understand why they are developing the product in a certain way.
Before the sprint planning meeting, the Scrum master or product owner should go through the product backlog and ensure that all of their backlog items have enough contextual information attached to each task. This can help ceremonies go by more quickly because team members don't have to track down information about the task—they just have to focus on identifying dependencies.
Some ceremonies like the daily stand-up meeting are hard to forget because they happen every day. Using that same concept, hold the rest of the Agile ceremonies at the same point in every sprint so your team gets used to the cadence of meetings. For example, you can hold your sprint retrospective at the same time every other Thursday. As your team runs more sprints, eventually the ceremonies will become second nature to them.
If you notice that your meetings are starting to get bogged down, evaluate who is attending the meeting. Are the people currently sitting in the room the people who need to be there? Having more people than necessary in a meeting can slow productivity. Instead, only bring in the team members necessary for that specific ceremony.
Keep your ceremonies and Agile team organized by using work management software like Asana. A work management tool gives your entire team a centralized place where they can see notes for the daily Scrum meeting, backlog items, and information regarding the next sprint.Manage Agile teams with Asana