3 Warning Signs That Your Sprint Review Is Failing, and 3 Ideas to Fix It

Your Scrum team has been working together for several weeks now. They seem to be embracing change well, but you sense that there are still many opportunities for improvement. When you show up at the Sprint Review, you feel that something isn’t quite right. You are aware that the Sprint Review is one of the core events within the Scrum framework, yet you can’t seem to put your finger on what’s not going well.

The Sprint Review often presents a challenge for new Scrum teams because it is not well-defined within the Scrum Guide; this is done intentionally so that teams can define what works best for them instead of blindly following a book. I have compiled a few common warning signs that you can look out for during the Sprint Review to ensure that your team is getting the most out of this important meeting.

Warning Sign #1 – No working product (or artifact) is shared

This is likely the easiest symptom to see, but may be the most challenging to diagnose. If the team consistently ends sprints with no completed work products, there is obviously something wrong. What can you do in this situation? When the team does not meet their Sprint Goals, the most important thing to do is to empower the team to explore potential causes prior to defining a solution. Resist the temptation to solve their problems for them. Ask open-ended questions to encourage dialog and investigation. Applying a rigorous Root Cause Analysis is a common and effective approach for identifying potential improvement actions. These conversations should start at the Retrospective where the team can share their ideas regarding root cause and solution.

Warning Sign #2 – Team performance is not reviewed against historical trends

Some teams are laser-focused on the present but fail to look at the big picture. This may be problematic because new Scrum teams need time to adapt to working in new ways, and a snapshot in time is not always the best view into how the team is developing. Hence, teams should take time to look for trends in performance; metrics such as velocity and percent completion are valuable data points to consider when attempting to determine overall team performance.

Warning Sign #3 – Stakeholders and sponsors are not invited

If your Sprint Review only involves your core team without the presence of sponsors and stakeholders, you are likely not getting all of the benefits of the Sprint Review since this is a critical opportunity to showcase progress and seek feedback. Some Scrum teams are hesitant to “look bad” in front of important stakeholders due to their organizational status. While this is completely understandable, managing expectations early and often will give you an opportunity to build trust early and establish a channel of communication that will likely pay dividends sooner than you think.

To wrap up this brief article, the Sprint Review is a critical event that enables your team to communicate progress and build momentum towards the final product or solution. Even if the team has been struggling to produce anything tangible, holding the Sprint Review consistently will instill a greater sense of accountability and ownership of the results. Watch for the warning signs and make adjustments where necessary, and your team should be on track very soon.

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Eugene Lai
Eugene Lai