Time You Spend in Agile Meetings

Whenever I teach agile approaches, I discuss the possible meetings a team might choose. Some people turn to me in dismay. They start adding up all the meeting time and say, “That's a lot of meetings.”

Could be. Especially if you use iterations. You might have these meetings:

  • A retrospective once every two weeks.
  • A demo once every two weeks. (I prefer a demo every time you release a story, but that's me. Not every team can do this.)
  • A backlog refinement meeting every two weeks. (Possibly more often, if you're not accustomed to small stories.)
  • An iteration planning meeting every two weeks.
  • A daily standup of not more than 15 minutes.

The reason for these meetings is to replan as often as necessary and to reconnect/recommit as a team. Good reasons.

The real issue is how much the team works together. The more the team works together, limiting the team's WIP (Work in Progress), the less time you need in meetings.

A client asked me about the value of iterations (specifically in the form of Scrum) vs kanban and the necessary meetings. Their problem? Interrupting work and work on multiple projects at one time.

They spent a ton of time in the various Scrum ceremonies, planning and replanning, that they had trouble finishing enough before they had to replan.

I recommended they start using a kanban board to see their WIP and where the WIP was. They'd fallen into the trap of “everyone take your own story,” which slowed everything.

I suggested they reduce WIP.  Here are some ways to think about the effect of reducing WIP:

  • You only need a daily meeting to ask, “How do we move this item across the board?” You don't need to ask about impediments, because the team already knows.
  • If you use WIP limits greater than one, you might need a specific time to workshop stories just before they go on the board. (See the cadence post.)

If you use a WIP limit of one, you don’t need any meetings at all, except for a retrospective/kaizen. That's because the entire team works together on everything, in single piece flow.

If you use kanban, you might integrate a demo into the board. The last column on the right is the Demo column before Done. No demo meetings necessary.

Watch the time your team spends in meetings. Do think about whether reducing WIP limits for your team might help. Maybe an experiment is in order.

Update: Just published Visualize Work to Reduce Agile Meetings so you can see possible boards.

3 Replies to “Time You Spend in Agile Meetings”

  1. Hi Johanna, how are you and thanks for sharing your blogs which I enjoy reading.

    I just read about the use of a “Demo” column in this blog post

    “If you use kanban, you might integrate a demo into the board. The last column on the right is the Demo column before Done. No demo meetings necessary.”

    Would you be able to expand a bit more on this “Demo” column? Maybe some examples or details i could get my head around?

    Many Thanks

    1. Hi Martin, Thanks, so glad you enjoy my blogs. Take a look at Creating Milestones with Iteration-Based Agile for one possible kanban board. Scroll down and see the “Waiting for PO…” column? That’s waiting for the PO to accept the story—a form of a demo.

      You might also like How Agile Creates and Manages WIP Limits for a different board. In this board, a more common kanban, you might add a column just to the left of the Done column. Instead of adding more to this post, I’ll write a new post that shows a demo column. I’ll link to it in this post, too.

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