If you’ve been doing agile, and especially Scrum, you’re well aware of the meetings that are required to keep things running smoothly: (1) the iteration planning session, (2) the daily stand ups, (3) the iteration review session, and (4) the iteration retrospective. If you follow scrum by the book, a two-week iteration would include 18 hours of meeting time (8 hours for planning, 15 minute daily stand ups, 4 hours for review and 4 hours for a retrospective). That’s 22.5% of an 80-hour schedule for an iteration that is consumed by meetings. Many people argue that this is too much time spent in meetings over the lifetime of a project, especially if it’s an overhead or operational expense. I don’t necessarily disagree. However, these meetings are essential to effectively delivering value to clients and to the continuous improvement of a team’s agile practices. So, how do you handle this dilemma of balancing meetings that enable practices with project budgets, etc.? The answer: Use the scrum mantra “Inspect and Adapt”.
Our agile teams have examined our meetings and have effectively reduced our meeting time to the following: 2 hours for iteration planning, 15 minute daily stand-ups (and they’re usually shorter than that), 1 hour for our iteration review (usually shorter) and 1 hour for a retrospective (again, usually shorter). This amounts to only 6 hours (or less) of meetings for every two week iteration or 7.5% of the iteration spent in meetings. We think this is a manageable amount of time to dedicate to the various necessary activities of scrum to be both efficient and effective. I think that anything shorter than these times would probably start affecting the value of these agile practices. We are still planning without any problems and we are able to review two weeks worth of work in 1 hour or less with our clients. We have also found that 1 hour is more than enough for our retrospectives. Currently, we include these meetings in our project costs because we bid our projects as agile projects. Our clients are aware of the value these meetings provide their final product.
So, based on our experience, I would suggest really examining the value of the meetings you use to keep your agile practices running. If you and your team find that you are merely filling up time-boxes to do scrum by the book, inspect and adapt. And remember, if you adapt your meeting times to be shorter and you are finding that you need more time for a review or for your planning session…inspect and adapt. Scrum is an imperical “process”…keep experimenting with your meeting times until it feels right for you, your team and your product owner. And, if you can agree with your client that these are project related costs that provide value and not overhead or operational costs, all the better for you and your client.