Get your Scrum ceremonies in shape

3 Dec 2019

Get your Scrum ceremonies in shape

Dec 3, 2019

Almost all product development organizations utilize the Scrum model nowadays. The advantage of short Scrum sprints is that product development teams can work securely and in peace. When you have mastered Scrum principles, sprints result in high-quality, production-readiness and high predictability. In addition, the team’s stress levels remain reasonably low during the development phase, meaning that you can move forward at the same speed without end, in principle. Scrum ceremonies also play a supportive role in this.

Scrum’s foundation – roles and Scrum ceremonies

Scrum is in no way a complicated model. First of all, its key element is effective role differentiation between the Scrum Master, Product Owner and development team. Another key factor is the six Scrum ceremonies.

Scrum’s six ceremonies:

  • Daily Scrum
  • Sprint Planning
  • Sprint Review
  • Sprint Demo
  • Retrospective
  • Backlog Grooming/Refinement

If role differentiation and the ceremonies have been executed properly, Scrum is very difficult to screw up.

Balance between ceremonies is important!

Although a top-notch Scrum requires many other things, if the role differentiation and ceremonies have been executed properly, Scrum is very difficult to screw up. Unfortunately, we Contibyte trainers have frequently noted problems in the balance between Scrum ceremonies. We often face situations where teams in an organization we are training arrange some ceremonies extremely well, but seriously neglect others.

Train with Contribyte – achieving a good Scrum is like bodybuilding!

A good bodybuilder shapes their body like a sculpture – if some muscles are too small, they focus on training and growing them in particular. In this way, the body can be shaped into a balanced whole. We should think about Scrum skills in the same way. If a certain Scrum ceremony is in poorer shape than others, focus on improving that particular ceremony!

5 minutes retro is enough for us – because we are already a perfect team

Some reader or other is probably swearing under their breath, thinking that they do not need all six Scrum ceremonies or can combine them without losing anything. In the near future, we plan to write blogs about the most frequently recurring mistakes in each Scrum ceremony. Stay tuned!




Which is the most important Scrum ceremony? – Contribyte’s view

But let’s return to the balance between ceremonies. We conducted a quick survey among Contribyte trainers: What is the ceremonies’ order of importance? We found that even we have different opinions about this. Some trainers thought that all ceremonies are equally important, while others rated some ceremonies more highly. Contribyte places the Scrum ceremonies in the following order of importance:

Important but often neglected ceremonies:

  • Demo
  • Grooming
  • Retro

Also important but generally much better executed ceremonies:

  • Daily
  • Planning
  • Review

I think the result is affected by the fact that we tend to see major defects in demo, grooming and retro in particular. Teams often execute daily, planning and sprint review much better. That why most of our trainers emphasize demo, grooming and retro.




External feedback on demo

Another reason why we rank demo and retro so highly is the fact that these ceremonies, in particular, provide the team with an important feedback mechanism. Additionally, demo is the only ceremony in which it is realistically possible to obtain feedback from the team’s external stakeholders.

Do not repeat your mistakes – seek better practices!

It is important to keep Scrum ceremonies in balance!

In retrospect, a team will wonder: “What are we doing or have we done – did it work well?” “Would another approach be better?” “Would we act in the same way next time?” When demo and retro are executed well, they guide the team’s work in the right and optimal direction at all times. If you do not invest enough in these ceremonies, you will leave a great deal of your team’s potential unused!

And now we come to the heart of the matter! It is important to keep Scrum ceremonies in balance! If three of the ceremonies are well executed, but the other three are neglected, there will be no room to develop Scrum properly! Surely you do not want a Scrum bodybuilder who skips leg days?

The key Scrum ceremony is that in which you are weakest!

By now, the reader will be aware that the key Scrum ceremony is the one in which your team is weakest. For example, there is no need to develop sprint planning if backlog grooming is still in its infancy. Development ideas must be directed towards the ceremonies in need of most improvement.

On average, we have noticed that grooming of backlog, demo and retros leave most room for improvement. Grooming of backlog improves backlog’s quality and the team’s analytical skills. Demo works as a direction-giving feedback session in terms of the results. Retrospective fixes pain points and increases the team’s learning speed. There is often much room for improvement in these ceremonies because teams find it easier to concentrate on the other three: daily, planning and review. This may be because the other three are easier to execute. That is still not a very valid reason for neglecting Scrum’s three key ceremonies. 

If you do not know which ceremony you are weakest at, ask us for help

Do you know which of your ceremonies are in bad shape or ‘resemble a wet rag’? This is easy to define with an external assessment, which at its lightest can be a Contribyte online survey, or if needed a full 360-degree feedback at team-level. Naturally, you can also ponder amongst yourselves which ceremonies work better than others. An external assessment is still a quick and easy way of identifying the sticking point quickly and easily, and improving everyone’s buy-ins. Contact us and ask more about different options!


Arto Kiiskinen

Arto Kiiskinen

Senior Consultant

In his career, Arto has worked in product development as a Product Owner, Scrum Master and Product Development Manager. The operating methods of both large and small companies have become familiar. Arto loves to improve organizational learning and product owner know-how, and write blogs on different topics. Because retrospectives are one of Arto’s favorite topics, some of his customers have given him the nickname “Retroman”. During his free time, Arto tries to live healthy, buy as many cars as possible, rewatch the Star Gate series and study to become a Personal Trainer. Arto has also written the book “OWN IT – 8 Simple Secrets of Product Owner Success”

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