Recall your last Sprint Review. Was it a well-attended session? Was there an atmosphere of nervous expectation in the air? Or was it a boring gathering of developers and a few unlucky stakeholders that frequently looked at their watches. Which resembles your Sprint Reviews?
The Sprint Review should not be another item to check off the “Scrum to-do list”. Rather think of the Sprint Review as an opportunity to demonstrate the work the team has completed in the sprint. It’s a celebration of the work “done”. An energetic conversation about value and what could be done to improve the product. Is this a realistic expectation? Hell yeah, it is!
The reason for the Sprint Review according to the Scrum Guide is to inspect the Increment and adapt the Product Backlog if needed. Everyone invited to the Sprint Review needs to collaborate on the Increment and what to do next to optimise value. It is important to get feedback, for the Product Owner to adjust the Product Backlog. How do you turn this into a fun-filled collaborative event? There are plenty of tips to improve these sessions, but you have to start with your own unique situation. Start by facilitating a retrospective with the topic: “How to improve our Sprint Reviews”. You will be surprised by the creativity that comes from the conversations.
Let's sketch a practical real-life scenario of a Sprint Review session and determine how it can be improved. The following scenario (and more to follow in other articles) are fictitious, however based on real-world examples.
Friday, 16:23 (23 minutes into the Sprint Review):
Peter Stephens, wipes a drop of sweat from his forehead. He is a senior member of the development team developing a new product for medical scientists. It is clear that the software can help save lives as soon as it is released. Peter gathers his thoughts and continues the demonstration of the new functionality created in the sprint. It’s an intricate and complex function that allows scientists to analyse massive amounts of data. Not a small feat. The stakeholders look disengaged. Looking at the screen shared, the stakeholders quietly listen. The Scrum Master and Product Owner watch as Peter explains what they have completed.
“Any feedback or questions?” asks Mary, the Scrum Master, as the session concludes. After a few seconds of silence and shaking of heads, the stakeholders congratulate the team.
“Thanks all. See you next time”, Mary replies, with that, they finish up and leave the virtual/physical room.
Does this sound familiar? This session is a one-way demonstration and with little valuable feedback or open discussions coming from the stakeholders. Some corridor conversations might probably occur which are not ideal or adding value.
The Sprint Review should be an open, safe, and informal session to obtain feedback from everyone. It’s up to the Scrum Master to ensure the session is collaborative and open. The Product Owner requires these opinions and reactions to make the correct decisions for the future of the product. Critical and open feedback like “It doesn’t make sense” or “I did not understand how that fits in” might boost further valuable conversations.
Many times, a member of the development team demonstrates the new functionality, but not all technical people are good explainers or communicators. A great Product Owner will step up and bridge the gap when required and ensure that the achievement is expressed and well understood. The value of the Increment should be made known to ensure all are on the same page.
The phrase “Are there any feedback or questions” rarely leads to further discussions. Rather consider asking open-ended questions, such as:
What part of the feature did you like the most?
Why did you like that feature?
What problem are you/we trying to solve?
What behaviors are you attempting to change?
What does success look like for you? How did the Increment achieve that?
What about the current situation i
s not ideal?
Facilitate your next Sprint Review by ensuring all present can provide valuable feedback. Plan together on what to do next to further improve the product to ensure happy customers. Think of each Sprint Review as a celebration. And yes, why not have a few pizzas and drinks to go with it.