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How to Set Up a Scrum Meeting Like a Master (Even if You’re New to Agile)

by Robin Sherwood

So you’ve been reading up on Agile Methodology for a while now, and have finally settled on Scrum. You’ve even got buy-in from the higher ups to try it. Nice work! Finding a project management concept that your boss likes is a good first step, but that’s just the easy part. The hard part is getting everyone on your team to adopt it. They say you should lead by example, which is why you need to get up to speed on setting up and running your first Scrum meeting.


Scrum Overview

To develop your Scrum meeting, you need to review the basics so you remember what Scrum is and what it isn’t. Initially created for project management in software development cycles, Scrum organizes a cross-functional team, keeps them accountable, and gets projects launched. It’s been implemented in numerous industries since, so you still can use the method even if you aren’t in software.

Scrum is based around the kanban, a board of lanes that contain separate moveable tasks slotted into To Do, Doing, and Done. Your project may have more steps and more specificity, like Concept, Develop, Test, Review, but the former is the core of what your kanban must communicate.

Your Scrum team is a group of 10 or less people with different skill sets working on the same project. At the daily “Stand Up” meeting, you all stand around your board, quickly discuss what each of you did yesterday, is doing today, and what obstacles you have. That’s it!


Before You Impose Scrum on a Project, Consider:

  • Does it allow for simultaneous work from different team members?
    If it doesn’t, and requires that one phase is complete before another in a specific order, don’t use Scrum. Consider Waterfall methodology instead.

  • Can it be split into manageable chunks?
    Scrum only works in sprints, which are codified sections of a project that require singular focus for one-to-four weeks. A sprint may be made up of many smaller tasks, but there is one final goal. Only once this goal is complete can a new goal be decided upon.

  • Is it flexible in its process, methods, or features?
    Scrum involves a process of constant development, ideation, and reinvention based on what team members discover during the process. What you set out to make and what you ultimately decide to end up with could be different, based on the these discoveries and iterations. If the aims of the project are rigid, then by definition it isn’t suited for Agile.

  • Will the team members always be available?
    Since a close-knit team is important for Scrum, it’s best to have everyone in one room on a daily basis, though a group chat is acceptable in a pinch.

  • Will team members be trusted and autonomous?
    If the answer is no, it might not be suited for Scrum. Scrum teams can’t be micromanaged. The Stand Up is a status check in, not a time to berate, criticize, or command. Typically, executives and managers who are outside the main team of people actually completing the project should be excluded from Scrum meetings. The goal is to create a trusting environment where everyone is honest, at ease, and not being evaluated.

If you can answer “Yes” to all of these, the project is a go! Now you can get started on the steps below.


Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Your Team’s Scrum Meeting

  1. Assemble Your Team and Assign Roles

    • The Scrum Master is a ref, not a coach. Their role is to round up the team for the daily standup meeting and to keep them on task during it. The tenets of Scrum says there are no leaders, so this role should rotate among the team. You might draw names from a hat, or go alphabetically.

    • The Product Owner represents the voices of key stakeholders for the work, such as the end consumer, and often help clarify project requirements. They also serve as a liaison between the Scrum team and other stakeholders who don’t participate. Their other important function is to decide whether something is “done”. This role is permanent.

    • The Team is a cross-functional assortment of differently-skilled contributors to the project. They should train each other in addition to keeping each other up to date on their progress. Overall, you should keep the whole team in the meeting under 10 people, to keep the pace brisk. There may be other key contributors, but at the meeting, one developer could represent the whole development team on the project, for example.

    • Outsiders such as managers and executives shouldn’t be present at normal standup meetings- the Product Owner should report to them. It is normal to have a “sprint exit” where external stakeholders are invited to see the progress the team has made, however.

  2. Set Your Rituals

    • Place: Pick a location near the work area and convenient for everyone where the meeting will always happen. Try to make sure it’s not a place with lots of distractions like foot traffic, or a conference room that’s always getting booked last minute for meetings.

    • Time of Day: Set a time for the Scrum to start, and make sure it's consistent. If members are constantly missing the meeting, it’ll start falling apart. To make sure they show, ask each when works best for them and make sure they commit to it.

    • The Board: Arrange a kanban-style board to display tasks and work status. Consider codifying it with something like Smartsheet Card View, which was built specifically for this type of workflow.

    • Time Limit: Choose the meeting time limit, and have a timer to keep everyone on task. Set it realistically so that your teammates feel they have enough time to give a full update.

    • Cues: Think about starting and ending with ritual cues such as music. Go for a high energy song to get everyone moving.

    • How to Rotate the Speaker: You’ll be going one at a time, and could give reports by alphabetical order, or just go around the circle.

  3. Orient the Team

    • Pre-Launch Meeting: To successfully get the team to invest time in Scrum, you should first explain its purpose. You might try “we’re doing Scrum project management because it’s a quick way for us to move projects along, find and solve sticking points immediately, and know what we’re all up to. Plus, a 10 minute meeting each day will save us from an hour long status meeting with the executives every week.”

    • Outline the Stand-Up: Explain how the daily meetings work. Cover the three questions they need to answer:

      1. What did you do yesterday?

      2. What are you doing today?

      3. What obstacles block your path?

    • Discuss the Project: Since this is your first time, you’ll have to explain how this process will work with the test project you’ve selected.

    • Establish Sidebar Rules: Scrum is just for status updates to the team. Everything else should be sidebarred and addressed in separate meetings, as regulated by the Scrum Master.

  4. Refine the Process

    • Initial Assessment: Check with the team on how it’s going after a few days.

    • Peer-to-Peer: Make sure the team is interacting as one unit, rather than just reporting to the current Scrum Master.

    • Time Limits: Evaluate if the Scrum stays on track and within the time limit

    • Wherever you see issues, try to implement fixes.

And that’s all there is to getting your Scrum meetings off the ground! With a successful Agile setup, you’ll start saving far more time each week than what you invested in establishing it initially.


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