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  • Writer's pictureAgile Cricket

Performing Sprint Review over three continents

One of the Scrum ceremonies is the Sprint Review, maybe not so famous as the Retrospective or our good old Daily, but for sure a MUST when we start a new Scrum Project. You may start without a Retro, or a weekly instead of Daily, but you will always want to show the results you achieve from the beginning. This is why we have the Review Meeting, an opportunity for the Team to show the outcomes of the Sprint and capture useful feedback. Easy to say, but hard to do of course.

Each Team/project will tell another story, will perform the Review meeting in a different format and the focus will be each time different. That is because it is being influenced by factors like organisational culture and people of course. Each and every one of us will leave a unique trace on how the review session will look like.

From all the Sprint Reviews I attended in the last 6 years I would like to share with you four experiences with teams from China, US and Germany and the lessons learned. Please note that my analysis does not aim to create stereotypes, but rather explore team uniqueness and make important observations to help other Scrum Masters learn and grow.

  1. Team China

Sprint Reviews with Team China were the first ones where I learned how important is for the developers to test their demo before the Review. It felt like the Agile jokes: "It worked for me yesterday!?" The environment was down many times and we sometimes started late. It was not fair for the team, because they were extremely hard working and doing more than they promised. Despite the hard work and team achievements these inconveniences put them in a bad light where they were supposed to gather all the praise.

Lesson learned: Test your demo 30 minutes before the event and make sure all runs smoothly.

Another interesting point I found at Team China was the big PO acceptance. Once a functionality is being delivered and tested with the small PO as part of DoD, still they asked the big PO for his acceptance during the Sprint Review.

Lesson learned: In some projects, where there are more POs involved, we might use the event to get all the POs acknowledgements before moving to the next Sprint. In this way we make sure we are all on the same page and moving towards the right direction.

2. Team USA

In this project I was only an observer and I had the surprise to see Review Meetings done not live, but through Print Screens. It was the first and the last time I ever saw something like this. I am sure there was a good reason behind, however with this example I would like to stress out the importance of showing the functionality LIVE, not on Test or Stage Environment, or in Printscreens. Scrum teaches us the importance of delivering working software, not ALMOST working software. We finish something and move to the next thing. If we do not finish it, we learn why we missed to finish and next time do it right.

If the team achieved 95% of its goal, they should not show anything. This failure will make them more ambitious to explore the reasons for failure and avoid doing the same mistakes next time. Exception is when the team agrees as sprint goal to bring the functionality for the moment on Test or Stage.

Lesson learned: present the functionality LIVE.

3. Team Germany 1

One of my first teams located in Germany was a team made of externals. I love working with externals and one of my focus is to make everyone feel like part of ONE team, no external/internal differences. However this experience helped me learn 2 lessons.

It was for the first time when the backend developers were showing everything they achieved. Normally in a team with internals the BE people do not feel like showing any thing, most of the focus is placed on the FE. The BE outcomes many not be so chic like the FE outcomes, but still it is worthy of seeing their work. It is not all the time just tables and codes, but could also be technical maps and architecture constructs, mindmaps and analysis.

Lessons learned: insist on BE to present their achievements. Let's not forget that Sprint Review is the opportunity for all the team members to show the outcomes and be proud of the results.

While working with the team I also observed people fear of failure, especially because they were coming from an external consulting company, putting a lot of stress on them to deliver, deliver, deliver what the customer (the employer) wanted. I could see this in the lack of experimentation and careful planning. On one hand it is good to take less and be sure of delivery, on the other hand Scrum is about experimentation and courage, it needs a different mindset.

Lesson learned: beware of the team mindset and support them grow, otherwise this will affect all the ceremonies, the whole project.

4. Team Germany 2

This team represents the best-in-class I have ever worked with and it is in fact an umbrella gathering more teams under the same project. For this project is the Sprint Review a CELEBRATION, an opportunity to not only show WHAT they achieved, but HOW they do it, is simply ART. Each team prepares a presentation to help the stakeholders digest the information presented more easily.

With astonishing animation we saw dragons spitting fire, crows flying, falling stars announcing each team. The demo sometimes is organised like a theatre play, an interview between the user and the admin, explaining the functionality. It not only celebrates a job well done, but also the fact that beyond work there is also PASSION, CREATIVITY and PURPOSE.

Lesson learned: create an environment where people can grow and flourish, both professionally and personally. Make work FUN.

A great demo asks for great feedback, however after our demos we could hear crickets. This raised many concerns and we looked into improving the sessions. We learned that our session attracted many people (around 60 each time) which made many people stay quiet. In the same time we learned that feedback still happen, but outside the session, or in separate sessions with key stakeholders.

Lesson learned: chose your stakeholders wisely and if needed have separate sessions with key stakeholders.

Hope you enjoyed some of my experiences and this will help you improve your work with the teams, to deliver the best sprint reviews where people and their work glow!

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Photo from Alex Litvin on Unsplash

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