The Myth of Too Many Scrum Meetings
A common complaint in organizations adopting Scrum is that Scrum has too many meetings. People may perceive Scrum as having many meetings, but this doesn’t consider all the time that people spent meeting before Scrum—and how effective that time really was.
As long as you’re mindful of keeping meetings focused, people should quickly realize that they’ll waste less time in meetings than they did before Scrum.
Mike Cohn explains that the reason for the perception about Scrum having a lot of meetings is that, as with many things, Scrum increases the visibility of meetings over the interactions that might have happened before. Before Scrum, people needed to meet in order to coordinate work. These “meetings” may have been casual, on an irregular basis, and perhaps without all the necessary input.
Making the meetings explicit and regular makes them stand out. Scrum meetings minimize waste by providing a framework where the right people are meeting at a known time with a general sense of the agenda.
Consider the contrast between the Scrum framework and a more ad hoc approach to planning a new feature for a website. In Scrum, a team might schedule an hourlong sprint planning meeting to discuss scope and a number of design alternatives. Developers, product owners, and everyone else who may have information to contribute will be there, as well as people on the fringes of the feature who might have unexpected input, and you’ll end the meeting with a good idea of what to do.
Without this planned interaction, back-end developers might meet on their own, discover that they need product owner input, and miss out on the opportunity to hear insights from the front-end developers that affect the API design. The time spent meeting might be less, but it was not as effective. And in the long run, the time spent meeting might even be more, since ad hoc interactions can lead to more interruptions and require catchup and rework later on.
Even through Scrum gives you a framework to have more focused interactions, meetings can still be ineffective if you don’t stay focused. Make sure that your Scrum meetings are organized around the goals. Prepare for planning meetings and structure them so that people don’t become detached. Make sure that sprint review meetings are opportunities for feedback rather than simply show-and-tell demonstrations. And follow general guidelines for meetings to keep them effective.
Some ad hoc interactions are unavoidable, and perhaps even desirable. No framework will avoid that, and arguably, considering agile focuses on individuals and interactions, we should not discourage impromptu meetings when needed. What the Scrum meeting framework provides is a way to minimize the impact of interactions that require input from all or most of the team.
Ultimately, Scrum events minimize wasted time and maximize effective communication.