That meeting could have been an email…
Unfortunately this is a sentiment we’ve all had after a meeting that didn't feel particularly effective. Recent surveys show that between 60 and 70 percent of employees think they have too many meetings in the average week. On the other hand, communication is important, particularly during our remote work reality.
Some of the core tenets of agile testing are:
- small incremental work
- continuous evaluation
- responding to change quickly
All of those rely upon constant communication. While these two factors seem like competing thoughts, there is a solution (this would be a pretty rough blog if there wasn’t one, right?).
Why are ceremonies important to agile testing?
Ceremonies are important in agile projects because things move quickly -- sometimes too quickly. They ensure the common goal and vision of the project are transparent to all stakeholders within the organization. Ceremonies also help solicit feedback, assess the work that has been completed, and align their next steps with the current needs in a collaborative fashion.
4 Types of Agile Ceremonies
The four core ceremonies are:
- Daily Standups
Each has a specific purpose, is timeboxed (cannot exceed a limit), and is for a specific group of people.
Planning Agile Ceremony
Planning is crucial for any project, but especially for one that needs to move quickly. This meeting should include relevant stakeholders collaborating and deciding what should be added to the next phase of work. The findings in the review meeting (which you’ll read more about below) should also be considered in this meeting. Walking out of a planning meeting with a clear idea of what you and your team are looking to accomplish during the next phase of the project greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll hit your targets.
Daily Standup Agile Ceremony
Daily Standup is a personal favorite. The standard format for this ceremony is as follows: review the tasks worked on the previous day, discuss the anticipated work for the current day, and if any blockers or additional risks are uncovered, develop a plan to address them. It allows daily touchpoints with the team to ensure everyone is on the same page. Working from a visual of the team’s work (e.g. Kanban board) is incredibly useful, and it’s a great way to build rapport.
Review Agile Ceremony
At the end of a phase, a Review is one of the most important aspects of maintaining momentum on an Agile project. This is the time when you can review what you planned in the first meeting and see your results. Depending upon those results, adjustments can be made to the next phase or phases of work, leading into another Planning meeting. By identifying specific opportunities to improve for the next phase, the team can make changes to work styles to achieve better results each time. In my experience, the biggest steps forward in a project come from when a weakness is identified and transformed into a strength.
Retrospective Agile Ceremony
Often combined with the Review meeting is the Retrospective. While the review meeting focuses on the results of a phase, the retrospective focuses on the process itself. This is a time to surface what went well, what could go better, and action items to continually evolve the process in a way that best fits the team. Agile is a methodology that is often viewed as rigid, but it must work for you and your team. A retrospective will make sure that the process implemented is beneficial to the project and team as a whole. This allows for all stakeholders to have a conversation and surface ideas to create even more efficiency.
Best Practices for Agile Ceremonies
Keep them. Even if they are short. - Make sure your ceremonies are truly that - they aren’t optional, they’re prescribed, and part of protocol. Having a standing meeting, even if there’s very little to discuss, is still important. Meeting for a few minutes is better than skipping the meeting entirely - if a meeting is skipped, a touchpoint is lost and the ceremony loses importance in the view of the stakeholders.
Communication is key. More so than ever before, consistent communication and regular sync ups between coworkers have taken on new importance in this remote world. A bit of information that might have been shared in passing may get lost in a fully remote environment. Ceremonies should help keep everyone informed, and add a little camaraderie in the process.
Come prepared. Going back to the beginning, how do we make sure these ceremonies never feel like they could have been an email? Two words: intent and efficiency. Arriving to these ceremonies with an agenda, a plan, and the intent to achieve it all in the most efficient way possible will keep everyone engaged and might even give them back a little time in their day.