Agile Meetings: A Guide to Manage Them Successfully

Learn 4 types of agile meetings to partake in: sprint planning, daily stand-ups, backlog grooming sessions, and sprint retrospectives.

By Mara Calvello  •   February 6, 2021  •   9 min read

We’ve all heard the phrase that something “is a marathon and not a sprint”. Meaning, it takes time and you shouldn’t race through it to get to the end.

While this way of thinking can apply to certain areas of business, it doesn’t apply to it all. And sometimes things really are just that… a sprint.

Scrum ceremonies – also known as Agile Meetings – are a part of the Scrum framework for product development. While the “Agile” approach started exclusively for software development teams, it has gained popularity across all industries and varying types of teams. 

What are agile meetings?

The Scrum framework involves working in shorter time frames, called sprints or scrums, which provides time to adjust and to be more effective long-term. A sprint or a scrum uses sets of intervals, where your team allocates a specific amount of time to each task. At the end of each scrum, everyone takes the time to evaluate their output. Agile meetings (sprints, scrums, backlog grooming sessions, and sprint retrospectives) are an essential part of this framework.

So, while some meetings can take place where there’s a lengthy agenda, numerous objectives, and time to discuss a long list of topics, an agile meeting is hyper-focused around something specific. The goal is to minimize how often your team goes on tangents and has conversations that don’t pertain to the task at hand. There’s a clear objective and everyone knows what is meant to be achieved at the end. 

Before you can dive into leading an agile meeting, let’s break down the different types and the tips you’ll need to know to do so effectively. 

What are the four agile meetings?

According to the Scrum methodology, there are four main types of agile meetings that you can lead or partake in to make sure that your projects are moving forward.

1 Sprint planning meetings

As the name would suggest, a sprint planning meeting sets up your entire team for success throughout the sprint. They take place at the start of each sprint and should last approximately an hour per week-length of the sprint. 

The goal of the sprint planning session is for the scrum team to meet and have a conversation regarding what work they want to accomplish in the next sprint, and prioritize each task and assign it to each sprint member. You and your team will discuss the objectives for the next sprint and divide the tasks amongst each other. A realistic goal and backlog with all of the items that need to be completed by the end of the spring will be discussed in fruition. 

Who attends sprint planning meetings?

In attendance for a sprint planning meeting are typically the product owner, who is leading the meeting, the development team, and the scrum master. The product owner is the person who owns the “what is” and “why” something is desired, whereas the scrum master is the facilitator, or leader, of the entire process.

Since these meetings are used to discuss every detail of the work that needs to be done, no matter how small, your team should leave a sprint plan feeling like they’re set up for success and that all of their questions have been answered. 

Sprint planning meeting template

With this sprint planning meeting agenda template, you can lay out an agenda that will help your team better prepare for the sprint.

2 Scrum meetings

A scrum meeting, otherwise referred to as a daily stand-up, is a quick check-in with your team. They occur once per day for every day of the sprint, are usually no more than 15 minutes in length, and typically take place in the morning.

Who attends scrum meetings?

During these stand-ups, each member of the development team will quickly share with other members exactly what they’re working on, how their progress is going, and if they’re experiencing any blockers.

Consider laying out questions to be answered during every scrum. These can include: 

  • What did you accomplish yesterday?
  • What is on your to-do list for today?
  • Is there anything blocking your progress?
  • How close are you to hitting your sprint goals?
  • Do you need anything from the team?

These answers allow the scrum master to see if anything is hindering progress on the objectives set during the spring planning meeting. The answers also provide transparency to everyone within the meeting and no one is left wondering what another member is working on.

Additionally, each team member has a feeling of accountability as they report what they accomplished yesterday in front of their entire team. And, since any outside stakeholders may attend a daily standup, it ensures that everyone is completely in the know.

Scrum meeting template

Use this daily scrum template to help your team remove blockers and work more effectively together. 

3 Backlog grooming meetings 

A backlog grooming meeting, sometimes referred to as a backlog refinement meeting or a grooming scrum, is used to review items on the backlog. In this case, a backlog is a list of any upcoming items and things that need to be done by your team. The goal of these meetings is to keep the backlog as accurate and up to date as possible so it can be pulled and referencing in upcoming sprints. 

Who attends backlog grooming meetings?

Backlog grooming meetings can occur on a regular basis but typically take place towards the end of a sprint. They’re usually between 30 minutes and one hour in length and in attendance are the scrum master, product owner, and the development team. 

Some questions to ask are:

  • What were you unable to complete in the last sprint that still needs to get done?
  • What came up that we can fix/solve?
  • What is the highest priority item that needs to get done to ensure we see success?
  • Is there anything that you could expect to occur that may disrupt the project?

Backlog grooming meeting template

Use this backlog grooming meeting template to get your team aligned on the highest priority items.

4 Sprint retrospective meeting 

During a sprint retrospective meeting, the development team, scrum master, and product owner will all discuss their work together on the specific project or agenda. They’ll discuss what went well, what didn’t, and what they would have done differently. At the end, there should be a list of action items to implement the next time they work on a project to improve collaboration and have a better possibility of success.

Who attends sprint retrospective meetings?

Attending the sprint retrospective is the development team alongside the scrum master. The length of time will depend on how long the sprint took place for, but shouldn’t be less than one hour or exceed three hours. 

These meetings are all about providing feedback to make the next sprint even better. They should be used to find what did work this time, as well as find creative solutions for what didn’t work or for the blockers various members experienced.  

Even if the project was 100% a success, don’t skip out on the retrospective. They can still be used to discuss ways to improve or the tiny hiccups that may have occurred along the way.

Some questions or talking points can include:

  • What prevented you from accomplishing your goal or achieving your best work?
  • What methods should we get rid of and which should we keep?
  • Which methods should we adjust for next time?

Sprint retrospective meeting template

Help your team reflect on the learnings, challenges, and outcomes of a completed sprint.

5 tips to run agile meetings effectively

When you’re ready to get started running agile meetings, consider these tips on how to do so effectively and to achieve success. 

1 Invite your stakeholders to join

As stated above, it’s always a good idea to invite your stakeholders to join your agile meetings. They may not decide to join, but if they do, they’ll be provided an inside look into what your team is working on. They should also have access to any project files that are relevant to achieving success.

2 Add some fun

While yes, these meetings need to be productive and you need to stay on track, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little fun. For instance, if you’re leading a quick 15-minute scrum (at the office), bring in a tennis ball into the meeting room. Have your team stand up and toss the ball to the person speaking to indicate the “round-robin” effect. Doing so will also change the tempo of the usual daily scrum meetings.

3 Set some rules

Just because you want to have some fun doesn’t mean that there needs to be some rules in place, too.

For instance, it should be obvious that your team needs to join the meeting on time and that you won’t be waiting for stragglers who arrive late. Also, have rules for who speaks and win. There should always be one person speaking at a time, and if you’re going to toss a ball around during the scrum, only the person with the tennis ball should be speaking. You can also have a rule that a person can only be interrupted if they start to go off-topic.

Having specific rules ensures that the time spent meeting is as effective as possible and that there’s time to discuss everything on the agenda.

4 Come prepared

From the scrum master to the development team, everyone needs to attend an agile meeting prepared. Have questions ready, know what you’re expected to share with the team, and be ready to discuss strategy and a potential new plan of action.

Especially in a short meeting like a scrum, time needs to be spent wisely. In order to make sure your team is prepared, be sure to outline exactly what you expect to discuss and questions they should have the answers to. Send the agenda to your team ahead of time so when the meeting begins, you and your team can hit the ground running.

5 Use Fellow to track notes and action items

Using the right meeting software can make all the difference. When you take advantage of the features that Fellow has to offer, your agile meetings will stay on track, your meeting notes will be organized, and you’ll leave each agile meeting with a clear understanding of what still needs to be accomplished to achieve success. You’ll be able to easily record any decisions that you and your team come to, which will hold everyone accountable for their own tasks and goals.

Ready, set, sprint

When you and your team are ready to start having agile meetings, you’ll be surprised at how much you can get accomplished and discussed in a short amount of time. Remember to come prepared, be ready to ask questions, and take advantage of a tool like Fellow to help you take notes and plan out the agenda ahead of time.

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