Agile Ceremonies Agile Explained

We are doing all the Agile CEREMONIES. However, our output has not changed, what is going wrong?

Steve Walton – taking our ADAPTOVATE team through some drills.


Each ceremony should serve a specific purpose and when done correctly, helps the team to be more collaborative and effective.

First up! – This short article is designed to: – Help you understand what may be going wrong with your Agile Ceremonies.

What this article is not about.  –  Understanding what Agile Ceremonies are.

By that we mean, if you are reading this you – we are kind of assuming you are giving Agile or new ways of working a genuine go.  You have initiated all the ceremonies you believe are required as part of the Agile process.   You’re having Sprint Planning meetings.  And you’re having Daily Scrums, (or ‘stand-up’s’).  You’re conducting Sprint Reviews.  You’re holding Retros.

So, if you are confused by any of that – you need to understand them first. Or more importantly, you need to do some genuine research into what an Agile way of working is.

(A quick handy tool– The team at The Digital Project Manager – produced a great comparison chart – to guide you through those ceremonies quickly.  You can download that here. )

OK -So on to our 3 simple tricks to get back on track.


“Agile ceremonies exist to create discipline around certain practices, such as time boxing, continuous improvement and customer feedback,” says Mark Barber a project lead in Melbourne.  “However,” he continues, “conducting ceremonies without considering why we do them leads to what we call cargo culting – following a process or instructions without understanding them.”

Mark says, “Be clear on why you have ceremonies in place and continuously inspect and adapt them to make them more effective.”

“It is also important to know that practices alone do not make you agile. You need to understand and embrace the mindset, values and principles so that you can BE agile and not just DO agile.


Outcomes instead of outputs should be ultimately what we are measuring. Tiong Yeow Tan, one of our team in Singapore, says, “Outputs are a means to achieving the outcomes. For example,  delivering a user-friendly online application submission functionality is a means to reduce application drop-out rate. Hence what’s critical is that we achieved the planned outcomes.”

“So, if our outcomes have not improved with all the Agile ceremonies, we need to reassess the way that we are doing the ceremonies,” he says

Steve Walton, a principal in Melbourne agrees.  “Agile ceremonies are not people’s work, they are a vehicle to align and synchronise.” He says, “It is about ensuring they are doing the right work effectively.”

“This means that it is possible to create less output, however had more of the right output – the output which is relevant and valuable,” Steve says.


Often, one of the common reasons for Agile ceremonies being not helpful is that the right people are not attending the relevant ceremonies (e.g. how can we expect to confirm the sprint backlog without inputs from the Product Owner?).   So, we would suggest you ensure the right people are in the room.

“Agile ceremonies are not people’s work; they are a vehicle to align and synchronise,” Steve  says.  “It is about ensuring they are doing the right work effectively.”

He continues, “Participation in Agile ceremonies however does not guarantee improvements, however. The ceremonies provide an opportunity for people to engage though targeted interpersonal exchanges.”

To be useful, these ceremonies need to learn how to extract value from them – this happens with practice. They also need to have the right people. Ceremonies where people turn up and ‘go through the motions’ may be uninformative and inconclusive. This may result in people not being clear on what they are doing and producing little useful output,” he concludes.

So, first step – understand Agile principals.  Be Agile don’t Do Agile.

Next, ensure that people are invested and understand the framework.

Lastly, Agile is not an initiative that a business takes on then leaves.  It’s a concept that changes the mindset forever of how work and decisions get made.

Ceremonies are the forums that allow Agile methodologies to embed.

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