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Scrum Ceremonies for Dispersed Teams

Last post 01:04 pm December 6, 2022 by Thomas Owens
3 replies
09:38 am December 6, 2022

I have a team that has agreed to conduct their Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective one day before the Sprint Planning. In Essence the team does Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective on day 10 instead of on same day of Sprint Planning and starting the sprint right after. So that means our sprints start on Wednesday day and ends on Tuesday. We do our Review and Retrospective on Tuesday but close our sprint early in the morning right before we do Sprint Planning on Wednesday. The reason for this is because my team is dispersed. We have members who are in the US (3), India (2), Breda (1) and in China (2). Due to the fact that our ceremonies are done in the US time zone of EST we it seems feasible to conduct our ceremonies as mentioned above because for some of the members it is really late in there respective time zones. This set up works for us however I'm wondering if it is okay since we are doing our review and retro before we fully close the sprint. My companies Agile Coach has greenlit our set up however, I just want to get some other opinions.

11:14 am December 6, 2022

The Scrum Guide says: "The Sprint Retrospective concludes the Sprint". So once the Retrospective ends, the Sprint ends.

The Scrum Guide also describes events: there are no ceremonies in Scrum. An event is an opportunity to inspect and adapt something...not to go through ceremony or ritual.

Why are you looking to an agile coach to "greenlight" the things you do, rather than self-managing within the rules of the framework described in the Scrum Guide?

11:42 am December 6, 2022

When you say "starting the Sprint" and "close the Sprint", it makes me think of digital backlog management tool such as Jira. While tools like Jira can support us while we Sprint, the Sprint as a container Event has its own time box regardless of when we start and stop within a tool.

A few notes from the Scrum Guide...

A new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint.

The Sprint Retrospective concludes the Sprint.

With the conclusion of your Sprint Retrospective, you enter into the next Sprint cycle.

Within that Sprint cycle, Sprint Planning is the first, initiating Event.

When you hold your Sprint Planning Event is up to your team and their situation. In your case, you have identified a required delay to accommodate timezones. 

It sounds like starting and stopping is a bit out of sync, and overlapping with the Sprint cycle itself. You are entering into Retrospective to inspect and adapt the conclusion of your Sprint, but work may continue on that Sprint until you "close" it at Sprint Planning the next day. Consider how this may impact the transparency of what you are inspecting at your Sprint Review and Retrospective.

01:04 pm December 6, 2022

There's nothing in the Scrum framework that says that the Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, and Sprint Planning need to happen in the same day, or even across two days. The Scrum framework does mandate an order for the events - the Sprint Review is the next-to-last event of the Sprint, the Sprint Retrospective is the last event of the Sprint, and Sprint Planning begins a new Sprint. I consider it a good practice to reduce the number of working hours between the Sprint Retrospective and the Sprint Planning as much as possible, to be consistent with the rule that "a new Sprint starts immediately after the conclusion of the previous Sprint".

When it comes to globally distributed teams, the overlap in working hours is key. The maximum timebox for any Scrum event is 8 hours for the Sprint Planning. To achieve this in a globally distributed team would require someone to work outside of typical working hours for their region at least once a Sprint, which may not be consistent with the Scrum value of respect or the Agile principle of sustainable pace. However, the timeboxes are built around a maximum Sprint duration of 1 month, and teams with shorter Sprints (along with good, effective supporting activities) may be able to accomplish the goals of each event in less time.

It seems like what you are doing is consistent with the Scrum framework. If the team finds it acceptable, then it may be OK. However, I would be concerned about showing respect to the people who are working late hours at least once or twice a Sprint in their respective time zones and the impact that has on their work-life balance, which directly contributes to their ability to sustain the pace and process over an extended period of time. You can use the Sprint Retrospective to check in with the team members to make sure that things are still working for them and make any adjustments to the team's way of working.

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