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Stacy Cashmore
Stacy Cashmore

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My Best Sprint Reviews

The Sprint Review. Like all of the get-togethers in Scrum a meeting that can range from a tool to make a project fly, all the way to a boring exercise of people simply saying what stories they finished.

Over the last 20 years, I've experienced reviews across the spectrum. From sessions where there was no involvement, pride or excitement about the amazing things that were produced. 20 people slowly going to sleep just waiting for the session to end, to the complete opposite of high energy meetings that allowed us to make something spectacular! And lots in between.

I want to focus on the spectacular, and after reading a blog by Barry Overveen of The Liberators I was reminded of the absolute best experience that I had.

Let's jump into a TARDIS and go back 21 years (eek, really that long!!!), to get a little history. I was interviewing for a consultant position, most likely I would have been sent out to help a company with their testing had I got the job.

The interview went well, so well that after 45 minutes we started to talk about other projects that the company had in the pipeline.

One of them was producing a marketing tool for a large multinational company. The owner was (rightly) proud and excited about the project, and I started asking questions and before we knew it we were brainstorming this project, the interview kind of forgotten.

45 minutes after that he stopped looked at me and asked: Rather than the consultant position, how would you like to lead this instead.

Gulp. I was young, inexperienced (I thought), and had no idea how to handle this. But, how often do you get chances like this? So I said a resounding YES!

A few weeks later I started. And this is when it hit me what I had let myself in for. How could I possibly ensure that this was a success? I didn't think: I must do agile/scrum. Not because I didn't think it would work, but just because I hadn't heard of them at that time 🤷‍♀️

What I actually thought was: The only way I am ever going to know that this is going right is by getting constant feedback on what we are doing (also serves my anxiety well...) and make sure that the customer is always happy with the direction that we are taking.

I arranged meetings with the customer once every 2 weeks. I would take a laptop to their site with the latest iteration. Show what we had done, go through the functionality, see what worked for the customer - and more importantly, see what didn't!

This was repeated every 2 weeks for the 2 years I worked there. And the results were amazing:

  • In all the projects we did in that time, we were only late once - and then only by two weeks
  • Except in 1 very specific situation we never delivered what was in the contract
  • We did, however, always delivered something that was absolutely what the customer needed

We changed direction very often, more than once we heard those magical words:

That's just what I asked for, but not what we need

And every time it happened, it wasn't a cause for collective groaning from everybody in the project. It didn't mean late nights or weekends to get some semblance of usable software. Rather it was brainstorming how it could and should work for them.

Even now, 2 decades on, I look back on that time with a big smile (even though the software was written in VB6 😛).

What there is, unfortunately, is a tinge of sadness. That this not explicitly agile project was probably the most agile that I have been involved in. And the Sprint Reviews, even though it wasn't an explicit Scrum project, were the most energetic, useful and productive Sprint Reviews that I have been in...

So please, read Barry's post about the sprint review and look to see how you can make your own less of a one-way demo, with low energy and no communication and more of a collaborative session to provide the spark needed to turn a great idea into an awesome product!

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