This rule of Scrum aligns with the Agile Manifesto principle “The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.”
In-person attendance of all Scrum Team members allows for the plan to unfold with minimal communication overhead and for the team to keep the meeting within the short time-box. In-person attendance also allows the team to effectively collaborate in the work of creating the plan. The efficiency and effectiveness of the Product Owner’s presentation of the Product Backlog is optimized as well as the Development Team’s ability to collaboratively assess and select what it can and will accomplish in the Sprint. It also allows for everyone to be clear about the Sprint Goal and why the Development Team is building the increment. In-person attendance also allows the Development team to efficiently and effectively come to a decision as to how it will build the increment of functionality. In-person participation of all team members also increases the likelihood that the team will create the right design for the increment. If even one team member attempts to attend this meeting by any other means, either by phone or even video conferencing, efficiency and effectiveness of the planning becomes compromised. Compromised collaborative planning yields compromised collective ownership. The successful delivery of the Sprint Goal requires full commitment on the part of the whole team. Lack of in-person participation increases the likelihood that the team will fail to deliver on its Goal because the planning will lack effectiveness. People are prone to estrangement from hazy goals reached through ineffective planning. In-person planning, therefore, is paramount to succeeding with Scrum.
Getting to Sprint Planning in-person requires that the team members be located close to each other geographically. If they are not, or if even one team member is not, then funds will need to be allocated to bringing team members into a closer geographic region. Although this may sound expensive, the cost is small compared to the overall benefits of having team members working closely together.
If team members are already geographically close, but still not attending meetings in-person, it may simply be a matter of not having an appropriate meeting space. The ideal situation is for the team to have its own dedicated team room. However, even a good conference room can serve the purpose. Depending on the organization, this may be harder or easier to obtain. If no space is available, then again budget becomes a factor… and again the cost is small compared to the benefit.
Even if the team members are close geographically and there is an available space, the team members may not be attending in-person because they are not placing a high enough value on the meeting. Clearly explaining that attendance is mandatory is a start, but explaining the negative consequences of not attending can make a big difference. Some individual team members may have personal reasons for not attending in-person. These can be a bit harder to overcome, but again, the Scrum Master should work with the individuals to find ways to help them with their attendance.
Finally, some in-person attendance is far better than none. It may be hard to solve the underlying problems preventing in-person attendance in a short time so finding temporary and occasional solutions is still worth while. For example, renting a hotel meeting room if the organization does not have its own space available can work from time-to-time.
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