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Are You Making These Review Mistakes?

August 28, 2012

Sprint Review meeting occurs at the end of every Sprint. It is very difficult for Teams to inspect and adapt effectively if they fail to conduct a meaningful Review meetings.

Common Sprint Review meeting mistakes include

  1. Treating the Review meeting as a demo
  2. Management overtaking the meeting
  3. Skipping Reviews
  4. Absent Team members

1. Treating Sprint Review Meeting as a Demo

This is the most common Sprint Review anti-pattern Someone from the Team or the Product Owner gives a demonstration of the features that were developed during the Sprint. The discussion revolves around the features and the Product Owner informs the Team if the features are done or not. Some call it a ‘Show and Tell’ meeting. There’s nothing wrong with this meeting till this point, except that the meeting ends here.

This makes the Review meeting a “backward looking” meeting only. The Team and the Product Owner only focus on the items that the Team worked on during the previous Sprint. They don’t update their Product Backlog in the light of the “demo” that they have just conducted. Undone items should be put back into the Product Backlog. They don’t discuss the current Product Backlog either. The Product Owner doesn’t present the current outlook, or any new information that she has gathered.

2. Management Overtaking the Sprint Review Meeting

Management and stakeholders are normally invited to attend the Sprint Review. They are given an opportunity to look at the latest increment and see how the Team and the Product Owner are working together to create value for the organization.

In many instances the management tends to overtake the meeting. They get excited about a couple of items and discuss those items at length. Managers congratulate the Team on successful delivery of work. In many cases, they shower the praise on individual Team members, instead of the whole Team. In case the Team struggled to deliver, the meeting turns into a fact finding exercise. The management disrupts the flow of the meeting. The Team is barely able to do the demo or part of demo in the given time-box. The Team fails to complete the Review meeting within the given time box. Review meetings are not a session where Teams discuss why certain things happen or the way they happened. The Sprint Review meeting provides the opportunity to the Team to have a look at the items that it has built and to update the Product Backlog moving forward.

Stakeholders and people from management are welcome in the Review meetings to have a look at what the Team is building and how the project is proceeding. But this meeting is not arranged for them primarily.

The Product Owner is responsible for managing the stakeholders. The Product Owners should ensure that the stakeholders are aware of the progress, plans and any issues or challenges. However, this shouldn’t happen during the Sprint Review meeting.

3. Skipping Sprint Review

Teams which struggle to deliver Done items every Sprint start to feel there is no point in having the Review every Sprint. They start to skip reviews. After all, they say, we haven’t really completed much work during the Sprints - there’s no point in having a Review. Reviews are the critical part in inspection adaptation principal of Scrum. If the Team doesn’t review the work they did against their forecast, inspection and adaptation principal doesn’t work. After skipping the Review the Team would find it extremely difficult to conduct a good Planning meeting. Before soon, other aspects of Agile take a hit also.

4. Absent Team Members

In typical cases, the most common Scrum Team member to skip the Sprint Review is the Product Owner, despite the fact that it is a very crucial meeting for the Product Owner. Accepting and rejecting work is the job of the Product Owner. In absence of the Product Owner, the Team fails to have an effective discussion about what is Done and what is not Done. In absence of the Product Owner, it is very difficult for the Team to know how the Product Backlog has changed during the last few days when the Team was busy completing Sprint Backlog items.

Learn more about Scrum, Retrospective and other Scrum events in one of Scrum Certification Courses.

© Faisal Mahmood

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