This agenda helps build trust by showing what the team is working on and the progress they’ve made so far during step 2. It builds motivation by hearing what people appreciated at step 3. It helps the team learn by recognizing what’s not yet clear at step 4 and hearing the advice at step 5. Then it reinforces trust when the team shares how they will act on the feedback at step 6.
In this episode, Richard and Peter share an agenda you can use for a Sprint Review meeting—or for any meeting where you want to share and get feedback on complex, meaningful work-in-progress. Too many Sprint Reviews are a demo with no useful feedback or a deep dive into the weeds on problem-solving. The best review meetings combine a deliberate demo with a well-structured feedback session. Learn how you can have this kind of review.
Download the Sprint Review Agenda template
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Welcome to the Humanizing Work Show. We recently shared an episode that described the three goals of a Sprint Review and the three levels of detail you might cover across those three goals. In this episode, we’re going to give you a practical agenda that will help you facilitate a Sprint Review like a pro.
We’ve been testing this agenda with our clients, including Scrum Teams, but also more broadly in other situations where a person or team needs feedback on a work in progress, and it’s been helping those teams get great feedback, build trust that they’re doing great work, and increase motivation and engagement. Using this agenda will help you do the same, whether you’re conducting a demo at the end of a Sprint, sharing an idea you’ve been working on with some peers, or even iterating on a slide deck or document that you want to improve through feedback.
We’re confident that anyone running a meeting using this agenda will have similarly great outcomes, so please share this episode with Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and anyone else you know that would benefit from getting some feedback on something they’re working on. Hit the subscribe button if you’re watching on YouTube and like the episode or leave us a comment with any questions you have.
If you’re listening to the podcast version, you can head to the episode page at humanizingwork.com/ReviewAgenda to download a graphic of what we’re describing today. And, we appreciate you taking the time to rate and review the podcast in whatever app you’re using so more people can discover content like this.
A great Sprint Review should build trust, motivation, and help us learn. This agenda accomplishes all three goals by breaking the meeting into six steps.
In step one, typically the Product Owner on a Scrum Team will frame the meeting by explaining the goal, giving a quick overview of the six steps, and clarifying any roles particular people might play at each of the six steps. Since opinions and advice don’t come until step five of this approach, it’s important to let people know that you will ask for them, but not until then.
In step two, we get to the actual demo. But before the demo, it’s important to set the context a bit. Since this is a work in progress, and it’s possible not everyone knows what stage you’re at in the process, give them the background they need in order to participate well. Explain what you’ve already finished, what you plan to do next, and what you’ll show them today. Connect the dots between the slice of work that’s ready, and the bigger picture.
This avoids them asking questions or giving advice about things that you’ve already done or are already planning to do, and keeps the questions and advice focused on the part you’ll demo today. Then, with that context, demo the work. Be careful at this stage not to apologize that it’s not all the way complete, or to downplay what you’ve done. The entire reason you’re holding this meeting is to get earlier feedback on a piece of a bigger thing, so you don’t need to hedge about that.
In step three, participants ask clarifying questions. The goal of this step is to make sure that they understood your intent and that you’re both clear about what they saw in the demo. We are NOT yet sharing opinions or advice, and since participants have certainly formed some opinions at this stage, this is the trickiest step to do well. You’ll need to facilitate actively here. A question that someone might ask, like “Did you consider doing it this other way?” is not really a clarifying question, it’s an opinion rephrased as a question. A better question might be “When you showed me this, can you tell me what outcome you were looking for?” Help participants reframe questions that sound like advice or opinions, to be actual clarifying questions.
In step four, we want to hear what people appreciated in what they saw. Ask questions like “What impressed you?” or “What was the best thing about what you saw?” If you have willing participants, this step will be quick and meaningful. Every once in a while, though, you’ll run into a situation where the people giving feedback had a wholly negative reaction to the demo. If you’re picking up on that during the demo, you’re better off skipping this step, rather than forcing an awkward, insincere expression here. If all the news is bad news, don’t ask people to make up something good. Just get to step five..
And step five is where participants share their opinions and advice. Our favorite way to do this is to ask people to share their comment using some structure like this: “I have an opinion about X, would it be OK if I share that?” Or “I have some advice about something to improve related to Y, would it be OK if I share that now?” This helps the team understand the nature of the feedback that’s coming, and since the person providing it has asked permission to share it, it just feels different when they do. It emphasizes that the goal of this step is to be helpful– not critical.
One risk at step five is turning it into a long debate or discussion about the opinions and advice. So, if this starts to happen, remind participants that this is a feedback session, not a problem-solving session. It’s fine for the team to ask clarifying questions about the opinions and advice or to restate what they’ve heard to check that they understand it. But the team gets to decide how to use the advice. We don’t need to agree on the next steps for what’s going to happen with the advice.
Which brings us to step six, where the team shares what they are taking away from the meeting. This could be summarizing the key opinions and advice that they heard during the meeting, and in some cases, they may fully agree with the advice and be willing to commit right then that they’re going to include that in the next iteration. But they don’t need to commit to following the advice at this stage. They just need to communicate how they will use the advice. That could be as simple as “Thanks for the feedback; we’ll take this into account along with other feedback we’re getting and ideas from the team, and we’ll let you know what we plan to do next after we meet on Friday.”
This agenda helps build trust by showing what the team is working on and the progress they’ve made so far during step two. It builds motivation by hearing what people appreciated at step three. It helps the team learn by recognizing what’s not yet clear at step four and by hearing the advice at step five. Then it reinforces trust when the team shares that they heard the feedback, and how they will act on it at step six.
Give it a try at your next Sprint Review, or use it informally with a friend or co-worker that might have some good input on something you’re creating that’s not done yet. Download the one page overview on our episode page at humanizingwork.com/ReviewAgenda and let us know how it works for you or any questions that come up as you put it to use. Please leave us a comment on YouTube, tag us on social media, or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can respond, and thanks for spending a few minutes with us today!