All of the Agile ceremonies, or their equivalents, are indispensable to getting a release out the door. But if someone forced me to choose which ceremony is the most magical, I would have to pick the Sprint Commitment.
Why? Because there are really only 2 levers that the business has to make sure that the right products get developed for the market — headcount allocation, and Sprint Commitment. Headcount allocation is what businesses have used over the centuries to control the level of investment they make to support their mission. The number of engineers placed on a project is the single biggest factor to determine how fast you can get to the goal line (even if the goal line does shift from time to time). Think about it this way: you hire someone if you want to get more work done, or you might reassign them if you want to throttle down progress on your project.
The Sprint Commitment, however, is a relatively new concept that developed in our own work lifetime, and it can be just as powerful as headcount allocation. In a Sprint Commitment meeting, the implementation team meets with the Product Owner who represents the business stakeholders. The implementation team reviews the backlog list of priorities that the business has placed in rank order, and they choose how many of the top priority work items they think they can accomplish in a particular period of time called the time box.
The reason the Sprint Commitment meeting is so powerful is twofold:
1) it determines which user stories can be delivered next in a working product, and
2) it places pressure on the implementation team to achieve some velocity in getting the work done-done-done (implemented, tested/documented, and queued up for release).
Without this ceremony, the implementation team isn’t always clear about which objectives they have committed to, or they are not comfortable with the schedule of work to be done. You might risk having expensive engineers working on pet projects, or not working at all.
The Sprint Commitment ceremony results in a contract between the implementation team and the business stakeholders as to which user stories will be worked on, and how much will get done. In an environment where it has always been difficult to estimate work and manage project schedules, the Sprint Commitment ceremony is the single biggest innovation to make progress more predictable.
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