The Sprint Review Rut

After a full year of back-to-back sprinting  here at Valpak , the teams fell into a Sprint Review rut.  It’s my job to coach, inspire and motivate them right out of that rut.  So, here’s the approach I took …

As we head into our 25th Sprint Review tomorrow, I realize that it may feel like Groundhogs Day for some.  With that mindset, I think we may have fallen into a rut.  The last few Sprint Reviews have had some noticeable issues (not just noticed by me, but by our stakeholders) … team members arriving late, awkward hand-offs between presenters, dead air due to apparent lack of preparation, etc.

That said, I’d like for us to be thinking about the Sprint Reviews a little differently going forward.  Let’s all channel our inner entrepreneur and think of our team as our own company and our stakeholders as our clients.  So, you are presenting to your clients and you want them to renew/continue their contract with you for another sprint.  This is precisely what companies like AgileThought go through with each Sprint Review and we can learn a lot from them.  Remember, your team is your company, your stakeholders are your clients, and you want your clients to continue to do business with you.  With that kind of mindset you are sure to deliver a successful Sprint Review each and every time.

But, it didn’t end there.  Our Agile Coach, Ryan Dorrell (CTO of AgileThought) provided more words of wisdom …

25 Sprint Reviews?  Wow – congratulations again!

But you’ve done this meeting 25 times now…is it getting boring?  Is it getting old?  Feeling stale?  Feeling like the same thing over and over and over?

Let me tell you the story of what I’m working on right now.   About half my time right now is spent working on a project for a client where we are building two mobile apps for the – one iOS, one Android.  We have a sprint review meetings every two weeks.  The product owner sees the builds all throughout the sprint – he downloads regular builds, gives feedback, and we’ve worked with him to define acceptance criteria.   There should be no surprises.  But yet I’m always a little anxious about sprint reviews.  I want it to go well.  I want the product owner to say “wow, this is really awesome – amazing work” at the end of the review.   I want to exceed his expectations, even when we’ve been setting his expectations all sprint with complete transparency.  He knows what the product looks like, and knows what he’s going to see.  My anxiety is probably based on the fact that he’s our customer – his company pays good money to hire us to do work for them.  They don’t have to use AgileThought as a development firm.  It’s our teams job to have there be no doubt that they should use anyone else.

Compare that situation and mindset to the one you may be in.   In an internally focused role, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of not seeing your internal business customers and stakeholders as actual customers.  It’s easy to think of them as just other employees that work with.  It’s easy to miss the fact that for each team, for each sprint, there are significant dollar costs.  Customers, even internal ones, need value for the dollar.  To echo Stephanie’s point, I want you to see your customer (product owner) as the customer whose expectations you need to exceed.  Have the mindset that your product owner could go find another team to do the work that you are doing.  Maybe they can find someone who can do it faster or better or cheaper.    If there was a chance that, after each sprint, the product owner would decide whether or not to keep using your team…would that change your mindset?   Product owners are partners but also customers with the team – we owe it to them as customers to treat them as if they have a choice.  They very well might have a choice and you might not be aware of that (I’ve seen this happen).   In your next sprint review, if you aren’t a little nervous – I would ask yourself why.

If you to have fallen into a rut when it comes to your Sprint Reviews, consider this way of thinking to up your game.

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About Stephanie Davis

Stephanie Davis is Senior Director of Enterprise Agility & Digital Product Leadership at Cox Target Media. In this role, Stephanie champions agility across the enterprise, leads the Agile PMO, and manages the CTM portfolio while also overseeing the Digital Product Leadership team. Stephanie leads the team of Agile Project Leaders in the roles of ScrumMaster, Kanban Lead, and/or Agile Project Manager as well as overseeing the IT Business Analysts. Stephanie is a career project leader with over 16 years in the field, including past positions with AT&T Business and IBM Global Services, and has maintained the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification since early in her career. She also maintains the PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) credentials. Her academic credentials include a BS in Marketing and an MBA in International Business. Stephanie serves and supports Agile within her community and beyond as organizer for the Tampa Bay Agile Meetup and the Agile Open Florida. Most recently, Stephanie has been elected to the Agile Alliance board for the 2015 to 2017 term. View all posts by Stephanie Davis

5 responses to “The Sprint Review Rut

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