Sprint Reviews / Retrospectives and Hybrid Work

Sprint Reviews / Retrospectives and Hybrid Work

When companies have a mix of employees at home and in the office, it is important that significant agile gatherings bring everyone together. […]

Agile methods allow self-organized teams to focus on the customer, deliver gradually and use feedback to adjust priorities. The most common agile method is Scrum, where small teams work in sprints, which usually last one to four weeks. The teams set a certain workload for the sprint and try to fulfill it.

The basics of Scrum are simple. A team checks the backlog with prioritized user stories, commits to the work that it can safely complete during the sprint, and aims to achieve the “defined completion” documented in the user stories.

Scrum ceremonies help the teams to work together; classically, they are held as recurring meetings, which are planned by a product owner, tech lead or Scrum master.

Adapt Scrum to different work environments

During the pandemic lockdown, Scrum teams performed these ceremonies virtually using tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. The meeting mechanisms have been further developed to support virtual participation and to take flexible working hours into account.

For many companies today, the question is how they can adapt the Scrum ceremonies so that they support a permanent shift to hybrid work. Some team members may work in one or more offices, while others work from home.

Hybrid working is a new opportunity for organizations and teams to rethink their agile ways of working.

Many agile teams are motivated to make hybrid work successful. In a recently completed study, 40% of respondents estimated that 50% of the workforce would continue to work remotely for three or more days a week.

In another survey, 75% of the technicians surveyed said they would prefer to work remotely most of the time. Supporting hybrid forms of work is the key to hiring and retaining developers.

Developers in agile teams who want hybrid work options on a permanent basis should support their organizations in realigning Scrum ceremonies and consider these additional recommendations for hybrid teams.

Start with Sprint Reviews

First, let’s take a look at the four most important scrum ceremonies that most teams follow:

  • Sprint Planning: The team checks the backlog of the user stories, understands the requirements and commits to the work you do during the sprint.
  • Daily standups: In short meetings, the team checks the status of the work on the completion of the user stories and escalates any blockages, questions or other obstacles that stand in the way of the completion of the user stories.
  • Sprint meetings: At the end of the sprint, the teams present their work results to the product owner, the delivery managers and the stakeholders.
  • Sprint Retrospectives: The team reviews what went well during the sprint and where they can make improvements.

The Sprint review affects most people, especially when agile teams invite stakeholders who demonstrate completed work and solicit feedback. Optimizing this meeting for hybrid work is important because it often involves several people and requires an efficiently conducted dialogue between the Scrum team, the product owner and the stakeholders.

Nineteen Digital Ventures CEO Andrew Amann believes that agile teams need to focus on stakeholder feedback and adjust priorities. He says: “The most important aspect of hybrid sprint reviews is that all decision-makers are involved.

Amann gives these tips for hybrid sprint reviews. “Turn on cameras and take out writing pads. We combine our sprint reviews with planning for the next sprint. Our teams explain what they have completed and what is ready for the next sprint, so it is important to move from review to planning within an hour.“

Tips for Hybrid Sprint Reviews

Here are some ways to improve Sprint reviews with hybrid work teams:

  • Document the user stories from the customer’s or the user’s point of view and provide guidance on what to demonstrate.
  • Schedule a rehearsal, especially if the team is less experienced, the features to be demonstrated are complex, or significant stakeholder feedback is expected.
  • Leave it to the product owner to decide on the order of the user stories to be demonstrated and the time he needs for each story.
  • Set a best practice for how demos are shown and shared virtually in conference rooms to minimize interruptions when changing presenters.
  • Decide on an approach to collecting feedback. For example, teams that use Jira software for their backlogs can ask stakeholders to vote for completed issues. Teams using Zoom can use the chat feature to ask questions, and the product owner can open breakout rooms after the demo if longer discussions are needed. Teams can also ask stakeholders to add comments to the user story to provide feedback, or use a Slack channel to capture general feedback.
  • Finish Sprint reviews on time. This point is very important. If a review is delayed, you should close the meeting and record the remaining parts of the demo so that participants can watch it when they have time.
  • Always record the meeting so that teammates and stakeholders can watch it later.

The goal is to ensure that all participants benefit from participating in the Sprint reviews, and this requires designing an efficient hybrid meeting.

Discuss improvements in Sprint retrospectives

Once a format for conducting hybrid sprint reviews has been agreed, teams should use their retrospectives to discuss improvements. This is especially important in larger organizations, where a unified approach is unlikely to be optimal, but it also does not make sense to leave the responsibility for learning best practices exclusively to Scrum teams.

For example, if a review took too long or a story was not presented well, how can the team better prepare and present themselves in the future? If the stakeholders do not give enough feedback, what changes to the communication, processes or tools could bring improvements?

Retrospectives also provide an even more important opportunity to improve hybrid work practices, increase team member satisfaction, and discuss work-life balance issues.

Ravs Kaur, CTO at Uplevel, believes that Scrum teams should expand their discussion framework at retrospectives. She says: “The condition of the project and the technical achievements are at the forefront of most Sprint retrospectives, but success is not just about the product. In order to be successful in the long term, the people who develop the software must also be healthy.“

Kaur offers these questions and recommendations. “Was the team burned out during the sprint? Was there an unsustainable amount of context switching? The human cost of productivity should play a big role in deciding whether the sprint was a success or not. You may have achieved your sprint goals, but is your team satisfied?“

These are important questions that agile leaders should think about, especially those who aspire to hybrid working as a model for their organization.

*Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO and author of the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital: The Leader’s Guide to Business Transformation Through Technology and Digital Trailblazer: Essential Lessons to Jumpstart Transformation and Accelerate Your Technology Leadership. He deals with agile planning, devops, data science, product management and other best practices for digital transformation. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO and influencer in the field of digital transformation. He has more than 800 articles on InfoWorld.com , CIO.com , his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation and other websites.

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