Scheduling Scrum Activities With Google Calendar's Repeating Events
Create a rhythm for the team and stakeholders
20 July 2016
The Certified Scrum Trainers whom we have contracted to help our organization learn and understand Scrum do a fantastic job drilling into our heads that a sprint is a fixed interval. These expert-level professionals repeatedly convey that product owners must continuously adjust scope in order to meet fixed deadlines.
However, when I've worked with new Scrum teams, I have found that they're confused about the importance of using fixed time intervals for sprints. When sprints are "extended" an extra day, or even a week, there are many negative side effects that ripple through not only the Scrum team but also the the entire organization. I've witnessed this change in schedule stall or even kill a team's attempt to become Agile, for several reasons: Key people don't attend the meetings, the meetings are longer than the timebox allows, or the team fails to recognize that it's not Scrum that doesn't work — instead, it's their inability to adapt to Scrum's rules that causes them to fail at successfully implementing Scrum within their team.
Using Google Calendar's Repeating Event feature
For Scrum teams that I mentor, I encourage them to use Google Calendar's Repeating Events feature to help create a rhythm in the organization and set clear expectations about which time interval each participant in the meetings will need to block into their schedules. In my experience, using Repeating Events as a tool makes it clear to everyone — product owner, development team, and stakeholders — when the meeting is going to happen, because it creates a fixed rhythm. As humans, we do better when we have a routine.
Moreover, many stakeholders already have other meetings and commitments that would be disrupted when one meeting is shifted, just like the domino effect. When our teams move meetings around, they find that key stakeholders aren't able to make the meeting, either due to previous commitments or to confusion created by a lack of transparency. For instance, our company CEO has a very full calendar. When a Scrum team circumvents Scrum's rules and shifts their sprint review meeting ahead by one hour, there's a strong chance that our CEO can't attend the meeting because she has a previous commitment to meet with another team member or client. However, fixed rhythms prevent this problem and make individual planning easier. Using a fixed calendar event increases the likelihood that everyone you plan to invite can and will make it to your sprint review.
Everyone reaps the benefits
But fixing Scrum events at specific time intervals doesn't help only stakeholders, like our CEO. The development team and product owner know that the final goal, the very end of the sprint, is at 8:00 a.m. PST, every two weeks. A Scrum team operating on fixed intervals will eventually be able to "feel" that the end of the sprint is near and will learn to forecast their sprints so that they're able to meet their deadlines. These team members eventually won't even need to look at the calendar to determine when the sprint ends; they'll just know it. Operating on fixed intervals makes sprint planning easier and increases the likelihood of the sprint succeeding.
Using Google Calendar Repeating Events also makes the job of the ScrumMaster (or whoever is doing the meeting scheduling for the team) easier. This means that the ScrumMaster does not need to reenter names in the calendar every two weeks, since recurring meetings are set up once only. Before I used recurring appointments, I spent a lot of time scheduling meetings and double-checking to make sure I entered everyone's email address in the system correctly to ensure that they received the invitation. I also occasionally forgot an invitation or sent it too late for the recipients to plan for the meeting. When I started using the Repeating Event feature, I found that it saved time and ensured that key stakeholders weren't overlooked.
If you're a new Scrum team or have trouble getting stakeholders to attend your sprint reviews, or if you find that your development team isn't making the daily stand-up, and these meetings aren't fixed, I strongly suggest trying out Google Calendar's Repeating Events for a trial period.
If you have another method for ensuring that your stakeholders and key personnel regularly make it to Scrum events, please let me know in the comments below.
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