Before the Agile invasion, organizations were already trying to become more efficient, be better employers for their employees, and add more value to their customers. Many training and workshops were provided on teamwork, being more effective in meetings, and as an individual. Unfortunately, the Agile journey has blindsided all of us, thinking we need to reinvent the wheel. I notice that many organization seem to forget all these learnings from the past when the Agile Transformation is in the picture. In this article, I will share my observation on one of the most prominent learnings organizations tend to forget once they go Agile.
“We do Agile Scrum now, and we do not need to prepare in advance.”
Before agile transformations, people were in meetings most of the day. When Agile transformation is accompanied by doing Scrum, most meetings stop existing. Within this movement, most techniques of having efficient meetings are thrown away as well. I have seen teams struggle with refinements, Sprint Planning, and many other events they have. I have listed a few observations for these inefficient meetings:
- No goal set for the event
- No agenda is prepared or shared for these events
- Every team member automatically attends all the meetings
- No meeting notes made, not even a conclusion is shared
No goal set for the event
Most teams I coach have trouble setting goals for their events. The most natural step as a Scrum Master or a coach to do is to help the team understand the purpose of the Scrum events as per the Scrum Guide. During team kick-off, you can dedicate some time to discuss these events so that everybody is on the same page. Of course, discussing them one time does not automatically mean that everybody understands them immediately. I suggest to put the goal of the event in the meeting invites as well (Disclamer: Scrum Master does not have to plan all the events). Additionally, as a Scrum Master, you can facilitate a workshop which I like to call “Back to the Roots of Scrum” to refresh the goal of the events.
Next to the goal of the events as described in the Scrum guide, you also have to pay attention to the desired outcome. What do we want to have discussed? When is the event successful? Why are we at this event? These are all questions you have to ask yourself in advance so that you can make sure the meeting is worth your time.
No agenda is prepared or shared for these events
The Scrum guide is very clear about the goals of the events. However, Scrum does not prescribe how to do the events. This provides opportunities to think about what fits the organization or teams best. Unfortunately, most teams and organization believe that with Agile and Scrum, you do not have to plan. They take this so seriously that they don’t have any agenda for their events as well. If there is an agenda, it is usually for the Retrospective, and even that does not very often. My advice is to let go of this stigma and create a clear agenda per event in advance. A few topics which you can prepare and distribute in an agenda are Backlog Items to discuss, the time you need to address them, the level you need to address them (high-level refinement vs. estimating)
Every team member automatically attends all the meetings
Most Agile teams are co-located, to be cross-functional to deliver value. Even the Scrum Guide states, “Cross-functional teams have all competencies needed to accomplish the work without depending on others not part of the team.” Most events are for the Development team or the Scrum team. This means that not everybody needs to be at all the events. Scrum Masters and Product Owner, for example, do not need to attend the Daily Scrum or topic two of the Sprint Planning.
Another example I see often is that the complete Scrum team attends Refinement sessions. This is usually a waste of time for most team members. Being cross-functional does not mean you have to be together all the time. Try to focus and prepare the refinement session to find out who needs to attend to have a good outcome. After the event, don’t forget to share the outcome and the design rationals with the rest of the team. Usually, the outcome and design rationale is more important for most team members that all the details needed
No meeting notes made, not even a conclusion is shared
Before we had Agile teams, we used to appoint a particular person for every meeting to make the meeting notes, including all the action points we decided. I was not a big fan of this approach because we always ended up with more action points than we could achieve before the follow-up meeting. I love the FOCUS that is in Agile teams and the responsibility everybody has to follow-up their actions. However, I have noticed that not writing any meeting notes causes discussion within the teams. My advice, therefore, would be to at least share the outcome and conclusion of a meeting before you leave the meeting. You don’t have to make comprehensive meeting notes, but making sure everybody is on the same page is very powerful and may improve the collaboration within the team.
Change in an organization is a good thing. It helps us to react to our customer needs and being one step ahead of our competitors. However, do not throw every learning and practice away just because you are in an Agile transformation. Use your common sense and evaluate your practices and decide if it helps you in the journey to becoming more Agile.