Sunday, March 30, 2014

Consider the ability of your Stakeholders to come to your Sprint Review or Demo before declaring it.

As many of you know, the Sprint Review or Demo is a fundamental part of the Scrum Framework. This "inspect" and "adapt" for the product is paramount to the ability to adjust and move forward.

If you are facilitating the discussion about when your review is going to be every Sprint, consider the stakeholders and their ability to show up for your review before making that decision as a team.

In my travels, I am often faced with a team that is trying to decide on the day and time of the week to finish off their sprints and do demos.  There is much written about the day of the week, morning, afternoon, over the weekend, etc.  There are many discussions related to what next; The Retrospective and how the retrospective timing is very important to a team's ability to grow and get better.

Consider that the Sprint Review is the one time that the Scrum Process specifically interacts outside the team with different parts of the business. 

The reality today is that if you are trying to follow Scrum in an enterprise, you will likely not fit perfectly into existing corporate systems.  

There are two approaches you could follow;

- Abandon the fundamentals of Scrum with the fixed cycle that is so important to its' rhythm.

- Stick with Scrum as intended and strive to find a time that works best for most of the people.  

Simply declaring "We are doing Scrum and stakeholders have to show on Friday's at 4:00 PM to see our demo or they don't care about us or our product" doesn't seem to me to be considering Scrum's Values..  Respect for starters.

Scrum is a Framework that helps to build Trust in the Organization.  The team has the ability to self-organize.  Think about this comment. It is also possible for a team to self-organize themselves into an antagonistic and confrontational part of the business.

There are many other considerations for the Sprint Review or Demo that relate to team dynamics, building of trust, feedback loops, transparency of progress, etc. A quick internet search will help guide you in that way.

If you are like me, you may have been asked to help a team determine a Sprint Length. Part of that decision includes deciding what day the Review will be and if it will be in the morning or afternoon.

I strongly encourage that you have an open dialogue with your teams about when your stakeholders actually can show up for the review.  If you are in an enterprise this can be even more challenging.  

When a team sets a review day and time that has no basis on the reality of their stakeholders being able to come, it is hard to say later "the business doesn't support us. They never show up for the demo".

I have included an example of where teams can go wrong. 

You need to focus on keeping the same day and time every sprint or you will lose much of the benefit of the "heartbeat" of Scrum. 

Consider the following scenario;

A team with one week Sprints decides to have Planning on Monday mornings and the Review/Demo on Friday afternoon at 4:00 PM.

Sounds OK right?

In an Enterprise, Fridays are typically the day that the following happen;
  • Executives and Managers are in meetings giving their "weekly status reports".
  • Managers are doing the "golf thing" as a part of their jobs
  • Leaders are networking at pubs
  • People are off early on Friday's due to "summer hours" allowing them to leave at noon on Fridays.
  • the list goes on ... 

Scrum is hard enough to do already without the added complications of not considering the implications of the selected time for the Review or Demo. It is important.

I believe in helping teams to consider what will allow them to be the most successful in their environments.

The reality is that many teams are in non-perfect environments and should do whatever they can to stick with Scrum as designed.

Team dynamics can be changed by the team's interaction with people "around the edges". Learn from that and do what you can to not have to change the basics of the Scrum Framework.  

At a minimum, it doesn't make sense to have your review at the EXACT time your Primary Stakeholder has no choice but to be in a weekly meeting in a remote office.  Doing so shows lack of respect for them and frankly, for yourselves.  You are practically guaranteeing that you are not going to get what was intended for this important Scrum ceremony.

The Sprint Review or Demo is your Primary opportunity to show your progress to stakeholders so they know real status and can be part of the process.  It is in fact, the intended time to do this.

I do not advocate changing the days due to an occasional scheduling conflict. Remember; you cannot please everyone all the time.  That is not the intent.  

If you are in a new environment, you have the ability to find out a bit about the corporate cycle before choosing your review date.

If you are in an environment that is struggling to get stakeholders to your review, ask yourself if you have chosen an impossible day of the week for this ceremony.

Please, for the sake of your team(s)....

When considering when your Sprint will end, 
think of the ability of your stakeholders 
to actually show up once in a while!

Stakeholders are people too.  They don't want to let the team down either.

If you are fortunate enough to be in an environment where everyone comes together to see the review and demo as part of what is going on normally in the company, then this won't apply to you of course.  

However, if you are in a "transitioning" or "imperfect" environment, ... have the discussion.

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile