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How leaders can effectively support and leverage the Scrum Events


Continuing the Scrum Guide companion for Leaders Series

This is post 4 (out of 5) in the series:

  1. What Scrum means for Leaders.
  2. How to create the conditions for success using the Scrum Values.
  3. Scrum Roles/Accountabilities and how the Leader can serve the Scrum roles and the organization effectively.

In this post, we will talk about the Scrum Events. Leaders should understand and serve the Scrum Events. Serving their teams can mean participating in an event and providing feedback. It means creating the conditions for a successful event (without participating or sometimes even BY not participating). Leaders also serve their teams and stakeholders by consolidating/eliminating non-Scrum events when there’s duplication/redundancy.

The Sprint

This is the fundamental structure that all work is done within. Sprints enable predictability and empiricism. Leaders should help their teams balance the risk of a long Sprint Horizon with the overhead and stress of too-short Sprints. During the Sprint Leaders help protect the team from distractions. 

Sprint Planning

Sprint Planning is where the Scrum Team collaboratively plans their Sprint based on priorities set by the Product Owner. The Scrum Team discusses 3 topics – Why is this Sprint valuable? What can be Done this Sprint? How will the chosen work get done? The Scrum Team commits to a Sprint Goal and provides a Sprint Forecast. 

The Sprint Goal, the Product Backlog items selected for the Sprint, plus the plan for delivering them are together referred to as the Sprint Backlog.

As Stakeholders, Leaders don’t usually participate in Sprint Planning (unless they are also members of the Scrum Team). They are welcome to work with the Product Owner to influence the direction of the Scrum Team while supporting the Product Owner’s vision and Product Goal before and after Sprint Planning. 

Leaders use the transparency of the Sprint Goal and Sprint Backlog to gain an understanding of where the Scrum Team is focusing and what to expect to see in the Sprint Review. They should avoid diving into the details of the Sprint unless the Scrum Team asks for help. Often Leaders find it hard to leave the Scrum Team to work as they see fit and often ‘offer’ help. Help can be perceived as managing the Scrum Team, which ultimately will discourage self-management. 

The Sprint Plan is a forecast provided by the Scrum Team. There is a tendency to assume this commitment is then used to judge the Scrum Team. Leaders should avoid this, as the more complex the work the more uncertainty exists. The commitment is for the Scrum Team to do their best to deliver the Sprint Goal, or to learn if this goal is unachievable.

Daily Scrum

The purpose of the Daily Scrum is to inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal and adapt the Sprint Backlog as necessary, adjusting the upcoming planned work. It is a 15-minute event for the Developers of the Scrum Team … If the Product Owner or Scrum Master are actively working on items in the Sprint Backlog, they participate as Developers. 

Leaders generally don’t participate in the Daily Scrum. Any participants that aren’t involved in the work of the Sprint are considered a distraction. The people doing the work should focus on the work and solving problems rather than providing status updates or posturing. Leaders should help the Scrum Team with removing impediments rising out of the Daily Scrum that require their involvement. 

Sprint Review

The purpose of the Sprint Review is to inspect the outcome of the Sprint and determine future adaptations. The Scrum Team presents the results of their work to key stakeholders and progress toward the Product Goal is discussed.

During the event, the Scrum Team and stakeholders review what was accomplished in the Sprint and what has changed in their environment. Based on this information, attendees collaborate on what to do next. The Product Backlog may also be adjusted to meet new opportunities. The Sprint Review is a working session and the Scrum Team should avoid limiting it to a presentation.

The success of a Sprint Review is determined by who’s there and how they show up. Leaders can help the Scrum Team get the right people to the Sprint Review and coach stakeholders in what’s the effective way to behave in this very valuable opportunity to Inspect and Adapt the direction of the Scrum Team and the Product. 

In some cases, the Leader will also be a real stakeholder themselves and this can provide them with the key opportunity to inspect how the team is doing and engage with them directly. This is also an opportunity to demonstrate the values that Scrum encourages such as Openness and Respect. 

Leaders have a role in making sure that Stakeholders understand the scope of their influence in the Sprint Review and the fact that it is a feedback meeting not a status meeting for the Stakeholders. The Product Owner might (or might not) adapt the Product Backlog based on the discussion in the Sprint Review. Leaders might need to coach Stakeholders on this new way of working or might partner with the Scrum Master and create the conditions where the Scrum Master can coach the Stakeholders.

Sprint Retrospective

The purpose of the Sprint Retrospective is to plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness.

The Scrum Team inspects how the last Sprint went with regards to individuals, interactions, processes, tools, and their Definition of Done. Inspected elements often vary with the domain of work. Assumptions that led them astray are identified and their origins explored. The Scrum Team discusses what went well during the Sprint, what problems it encountered, and how those problems were (or were not) solved.

The Scrum Team identifies the most helpful changes to improve its effectiveness. The most impactful improvements are addressed as soon as possible. They may even be added to the Sprint Backlog for the next Sprint.

While the Leader doesn’t participate in the Sprint Retrospective they can serve the Scrum Team by helping them implement improvements that span beyond the Team’s scope of control or even owning such improvements. The Leader can create an environment of continuous improvement that will encourage the Scrum Team to invest in improving how they work. 


The Leader’s role in the Scrum Events

While Leaders aren’t mentioned explicitly they can serve their teams by creating the environment in which effective Scrum events take place, with the right people and the right mindset. Without the Empiricism enabled by Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation on Scrum events, Scrum is but just a mechanistic theater.

  • Leaders enable the team to have a Sprint Planning event in which they are empowered to figure out a realistic and sustainable Sprint Goal. They gain an understanding of direction via the Sprint Goal. This enables them to communicate with other stakeholders about the work of the team. (as they might be expected to do).
  • Leaders don’t participate in Daily Scrum and don’t need to actively inquire about what takes place in them either. The Scrum Team will reach out to the Leader if there’s an impediment that requires their involvement.
  • Leaders can participate in the Sprint Review as a Stakeholder, gain visibility to where the Product is based on the Increment, and provide feedback that will be considered by the Team and the Product Owner (but not necessarily adopted as such). They have even a bigger role in enabling an effective Sprint Review by working with other Stakeholders to create an environment of empiricism and respect/self-management.
  • Leaders serve their teams by helping them implement improvements that span beyond the team’s scope of control. They might take ownership of such improvements. They create the cultural conditions where continuous improvement work is a first-class citizen in the organization’s work plans and capacity allocations.

In addition, Leaders should look at other events they’re asking members of the Scrum Team to participate in and experiment with how to minimize waste and duplication. Classic Status Meetings could be replaced more effectively by Sprint Reviews for example.

In our final chapter of the series, we will turn to the Leader’s role in enabling empiricism via the Scrum Artifacts.



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