3 Patterns for Scheduling Scrum Team Meetings

Let’s imagine a Scrum Master for a new team. The department has gone through a significant reorganization or new teams have just been created. These newly defined teams need to establish their Team Work Agreements, along with picking a name, getting a Team Backlog defined and so on. In other words: lots of activity for the new Scrum Masters! One area that tends to raise problems for new ScrumMasters and indeed the entire Scrum team is scheduling team meetings.

Setting up team meetings may seem like a simple thing but, it’s often more complex than expected. Concerns may include:

  • When are all stakeholders available and must they be at all meetings?
  • When does Sprint work end, before Sprint Review or can we work on things after that meeting?
  • Do we have to wait for certain meetings to have work accepted?
  • How many time zones are involved?

Without a place to start, figuring out the meeting schedule feels like too much at once. In this post, I’d like to give you a place to start.

Common Patterns

Over my eight years as an Agile Coach, I have noticed patterns – common ways teams solve the meeting scheduling issue. Here are the three most common patterns that have worked for many of the teams I have had the privilege to coach. These recommendations are a good place to start. Mix and match elements to get an optimum schedule for you and your team.

Pattern 1: Planning Day

There are three big meetings that mark the end and start of each Sprint: Sprint Review (Demo) and Sprint Retrospective (for the previous sprint) and Sprint Planning (for the upcoming sprint). In the common Planning Day pattern, all of these meetings are scheduled for the same day.The big attraction of this pattern is it takes just one day to get all the big meetings done. Get them done on the first day, start working the next day!

Because the Sprint Review and Retro meetings can be long and intensive, I often recommend the team break before starting Sprint Planning. This rest period (whether it’s lunch, a walk around the building or a chat with colleagues) allows team members to process the previous sprint and “freshen up” for the next one. Then the team begins Sprint Planning.

Note:Sprint Retrospective marks the end of the foregoing Sprint. Sprint Planning marks the start of the next Sprint. Sprint Review (Demo) marks the moment Sprint work time is over: User Stories are accepted before the Demo or are not done for that Sprint.

Pattern 2: Planning Morning Pattern

Some teams like to have the morning to button things up and get ready for the Sprint Review (Demo). Then they end the day with their Sprint Retrospective, go home relaxed with the Sprint done. First thing the next morning, they do Sprint Planning and are off to work!

Sprint Retrospective marks the end of the foregoing Sprint. Sprint Planning marks the start of the next Sprint. Sprint Review (Demo) marks the moment Sprint work time is over: User Stories are accepted before the Demo or are not done for that Sprint.

Pattern 3: Time Zones Pattern

Some teams have members in distant time zones. Such teams need to adjust their schedules to match the most convenient overlapping hours for all the members. Often this means the meetings are all in the morning or all in the afternoon, depending where the team members reside. The sequence of the meetings might be less than ideal to accommodate the difficulty of the time zones.

In this pattern, I recommend that the Sprint Review be shifted one day forward to accommodate the need to have meetings always in one or the other half day. All work on User Stories would be completed before Sprint end on Monday morning in the schedule below, but the Retro would be held first thing Tuesday morning followed by Sprint Planning. This enables the team to get started work on User Stories for the next Sprint. Sprint Review would be held on Wednesday.

Note: Because of the need to have meetings in the mornings, Sprint Review (Demo) is shifted one day. All work on User Stories has been completed before the Sprint end. Demo what was completed by the Sprint end.

Principles to Remember

Remember some principles involved here:

  • As stated in the Agile Manifesto, Individuals and interactions over processes and tools – Schedule in a way that enhances the interactions of the team members.
  • The Sprint Planning Meeting marks the start of the Sprint.
  • The Sprint Retrospective marks the end of the Sprint. After the Retrospective, the Sprint is over. No adjustments to velocity, no working late to get something done, etc.
  • The Sprint Review (Demo) shows only the work that was already accepted by the Product Owner before the meeting starts.

Within these principles, do what works for your team. And ask each other questions, share experiences and reach out to your train leaders and Agile Coaches to help get your meetings rolling. Let us know how you make planning meetings easier on everyone!


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