Yes, we all know it. And even if we have not acknowledged it yet, it is still there. Scrum planning meetings are boring and out rightly tedious. It’s one part of the work which developers find extremely dreadful.

To, summarize it all, Scrum planning meetings are NOT fun!

There are project managers who have even mentioned openly that scrum planning meetings can take as much as a day! Yeah! That’s too long. And like in any other company, scrum planning meetings have a very standard routine.

  • User story inserted into sprint backlog by priority
  • Story is taken apart to tasks
  • tasks are estimated in hours
  • Repeat

That’s how we all do it. That’s how it is in the papers. But still there’s the boring part. And most project managers can’t figure out what’s wrong.

It might be useful to understand first that why developers are actually complaining about scrum planning meetings.

Why are scrum planning meetings boring?

The seemingly obvious reason might be: meetings are long. But you know what? What developers spend in coding the product is way more than what scrum planning meetings take. So, long meetings are not the cause of boredom even if may seem so.

It’s rooted in even deeper and inherent practices of scrum itself.

Most of the scrum meetings are so obvious and monotonous that there’s hardly any scope for anything interesting. It’s the standard meeting routine being repeated one after another, story followed by another story, one task takes over another, and perpetual effort to estimate the time which mostly turn out to be incorrect.

Some try to make it easier by dividing the meeting across two days rather than one day. And guess what? That’s even more horrible to the developers. One day is miserable. Why in the world would you want two?

Anyhow, let’s get back to the point. How to make these meetings fun? We have tried to compile three tips that will make it easier for you and your team.

Tip #1 Planning Poker (or Gamification)

Yes! You heard it right! We said, “Poker.”

You can use the example of Poker to make the estimation part of the meeting fun. What Poker helps achieve is to get everyone involved by the rule that every person has to pick at least something.

All you have to do is design some poker cards specifically for planning. Or, you can also use regular cards with values attached to face cards. Simple, but keeps everyone focused. Being a technology driven people, electronic cards is also a good bet. Plus, you can track results, track user stories, and avoid “cheating”.

For example, most of the times, when giving a time estimate, one’s answer is influenced by what other has already said. So what you can do is ask everyone on the team to pick their card. Say someone picks 3, while someone puts down 20, and then another had 5. In this way, it will not only be fun. But it will also give you a chance as a manager to know what exactly was going in your team’s mind.

Just make sure, like other meetings, it doesn’t get too long. Because if it does, it is eventually going to be dull and will lose its initial charm.

Tip #2 Musical Chairs

Like musical chairs, you need to see your options and see what works best in the format. Scrum planning demands a lot of flexibility within the team. And all teams are different in its culture and composition. Naturally, not a single view of scrum will work for all companies or even all teams within a company.

To discover what suits you, you can try something new in every sprint during a project. And you can continue it until you hit upon something that really works for your team.

Tip #3 Focused Meeting

There are scrum meetings which also leaves space for discussing problems. Yes! There are. And if you frowned like we did when writing this, you’re certainly on the right track. Non-focused meetings are a major cause of boring and dull scrum daily meetings.

Before the meeting starts, set targets. By targets, we mean two things:

  1. What each member of the team has been working on
  2. What issues did they face

Now, the second point may look like it’s a problem, but it is not IF AND ONLY IF it doesn’t affect the whole team. You are not supposed to discuss these issues with everyone. It consumes an extremely large amount of time, rendering the meeting boring and dull.

Tip #4 Have Rules for Speaking: Who and When

It’s more or less a general rule in life, than one that only applies to scrum meetings, but it happens more than often that there are two or more people speaking or trying to speak at the same time.

During any scrum meeting, set a rule that only one person should be speaking, and if someone else tries to speak by interrupting someone, set an interesting code word (for example, “Fire in the hole”) as a reminder to STOP. It will make the guy stop without making him feel awkward while bringing a fun element to the meeting.

With this line, it also means that only the Scrum Master and the team members should be speaking at any time. Of course, stakeholders can say a word and are welcome to speak, their issues should be addressed only by the Scrum Master—only after the meeting has been adjourned.

This practice helps keep the meeting short and concise while keeping all the elements and team member organized.

A Beginner's Guide to Scrum