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Meetings and ceremonies






Week 1

Sprint retro (every other sprint)

Backlog grooming

(end of sprint)

Sprint planning

(start of new sprint)

Team meeting

Meeting-free day

Week 2

Team meeting

Meeting-free day

We break our work into two-week sprints. The new sprint starts on a Tuesday with sprint planning, where we commit to a set of stories that we're confident we can complete by the end of the sprint. Near the end of the sprint, we prepare for the next sprint with backlog grooming. The sprint closes with a retro where we discuss what went right and what went wrong, and then we kick off a new cycle.

Each squad does their own backlog grooming and sprint planning, and manages their sprint backlog independently. We do retros together so we can talk through issues that affect both squads and share expertise and ideas.


Why do we end sprints on Mondays and start Tuesdays? This funny schedule makes things easier to work across time zones. If we ended sprints on Fridays, our Barcelona-based writers would need to do retros and grooming on Friday evening, and who wants that?

Sprint planning

On the first Tuesday of a new sprint, we commit to a series of stories until we have filled our capacity for the sprint. This is the largest meeting in the sprint---about 60 to 90 minutes.

Before the sprint planning meeting, the scrum master for each squad calculates their point budget. Then, during the meeting:

  1. We select the highest priority item in the backlog.
  2. The person who nominated the story introduces it, and the team asks questions until everyone feels ready to vote.
  3. The team plays planning poker. Everyone secretly chooses a card, then we reveal them at the same time:
    • If everyone picks the same card, that's the point value and we move on.
    • If there's an even split between two cards, we choose the larger and move on.
    • If it's mixed, the highest and lowest voters briefly explain their votes. Then we vote again.
  4. Once we're sure we can fit the story in, we subtract its story points from the sprint's points budget.
  5. We repeat the above steps until we've used up our points budget.

We generally avoid pre-assigning people to stories during sprint planning. Instead, we pick up the next story or peer edit in the To Do column as stories are completed.

Backlog grooming

The day before the sprint starts, we do two rounds of backlog grooming. The purpose of backlog grooming is to prioritize work for sprint planning, and identify stories that need to be fixed before sprint planning to ensure scope is clear and planning runs smoothly.

The first round of backlog grooming is by squad, where the members and manager of the squad get together and work through the grooming checklist. Then we do a second round of grooming with the managers and scrum masters to look at the sprint backlog for both squads and ensure nothing is or has fallen through the cracks.

In the grooming, we:

  1. Each writer brings their personal "top five" tickets.
  2. The manager works with writers to prioritize those into a single, stack-ranked list for the team.
  3. We talk through stories and ensure they look ready for sprint planning (essentially, do they fit the Checklist for story readiness?).
  4. After grooming, the scrum master sends out a list of "homework" for stories that need improving.


Every other sprint, we conduct a 60 minute retrospective meeting, where we discuss:

  • How do we feel about the sprint?
  • What went well?
  • Where can we improve?
  • Anything we should start or stop doing?

The goal of the retro is to improve the way we work together. That could be related to the sprint process, to how we collaborate with SMEs, to peer edits, and so on.

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