Mar 07

A review to a kill

At the end of every sprint there is something that is known a the review. It is a moment to look at what has been done by the teams. Only often it is used in a way it is not meant to be or it is not used at all. It is so simple but often I come across review meetings that turn out like a publication party or it is called the demo. It seems that in some projects the whole idea of the review is somehow lost, so lets take a look at what could work and what not.

Wikipedia is very clear on the subject

A review is an evaluation of a publication, a product or a service, such as a movie (a movie review), video game, musical composition (music review of a composition or recording), book (book review); a piece of hardware like a car, home appliance, or computer; or an event or performance, such as a live music concert, a play, musical theater show or dance show.

So a review is an evaluation of something. An Evaluation is the systematic determination of merit, worth, and significance of something or someone using criteria against a set of standards.

I have had teams who worked for days to get a good review. Not only are they getting work done so it can be approved and maybe shipped but they are also working on the demo. I have seen powerpoint presentations that looked so good that they where better than the work itself. Elaborate animations with sound. I have seen slides that looked like art. Elaborate explanations of al the workings and so on. The review or the demo often turned into a sort of party and everybody was happy. “Keep up the good work” is the thing to be heart from the spectators. Champagne was popped and then everybody goes back to work. I have to admit that this does give a good vibe but it’s not what helps the team in building the valued stuff the business needs.

On other occasions I have seen review that looked like a funeral. Cold and sad. One way criticism session towards the team and their work. The team just listens as the product owner presents the work to the stakeholders. When something was not to their liking, they bombard the team about what is wrong and that they should fix things before a certain deadline or else…. And the product owner always on the side of the stakeholders.

Now there is a bit of good and bad in both ways. The review is to mark the end of the sprint, to have a look at what is done and to celebrate the successes. But the review is also for feedback. And it is feedback the team needs, not criticism. The team and the product owner need information on how to move on. Is the work to the satisfaction of the PO and stakeholders. Are the solutions provided the right ones and is the team allowed to move on. Work on new stuff or terminate userstories. A review is done in a small setting. The product owner, team and stakeholders must be there. So don’t turn it into a party. Keep it lean. The more people the more discussion you get. And when work is not presented correctly in the review, you can count on a lot of dysfunctional communication. A product owner who didn’t pay attention during the sprint cannot give a good review. A team who is not involved cannot defend their ideas or step-up to the plate as one. And stakeholders who don’t have a vision can change their minds as often as they can change their underwear.

A review can turn into a killing spree and I have seen teams been dismantled because they didn’t provide clear information. I always present the review to al present as that what it is. A review. We look at what is done. Should items be improved and be deployed. When everybody just sits back and nods that things are ok, I often get the creeps. It is never ok. You want feedback, good and bad. There should be a little discussion both ways. And everybody should be involved to get the best things out of the project so to make sure that value is delivered.

So. Keep it clean. Get everybody to add value to the meeting. And leave with questions answered. And make sure that no one leaves with a hidden agenda. Don’t turn it into a party, but turn it into a team effort. Don’t make it big just make it count.


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