Sprint retrospective vs. Sprint review

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Someone has asked if management or project management should come to the sprint retrospective 1. Think the way this question was asked indicated that there was some confusion regarding sprint retrospectives versus sprint reviews which, I think, is worth clearing.
Sprint retrospective and Sprint review are two different things that shouldn’t be confused.

Sprint review is for everyone involved, especially stakeholders, to inspect where the project is and discuss how to adapt as needed. Sprint review revolves around what was built – the “shippable product increment” produced in the last sprint – and the overall product, not how it was produced.

It is good if Product Owner “represents” stakeholders, but it is even better if they come and see themselves what was accomplished, what runs etc. My advice is to welcome management of all kinds if they want to come to a sprint review, just being sure they know what the purpose of the meeting and their role in it is. Ensuring that and educating them is primarily Product Owner’s job, but of course the Scrum Master may assist him.

Sprint retrospective is primarily for the team to inspect their last sprint, concentrating less on what was done than on how it was done, and then adapt their way of work. I wouldn’t include anyone outside the team in those, besides maybe the Product Owner if he/she wants to join.

A common objection to bringing management of any kind into retrospective is that team may not be comfortable talking about their dirty laundry in front of them. It is indeed very valid – but it is also worth noting that from managements’ prospective this would be a waste of their time to, for example, listen to developers debating how to improve branching in their code repository. Even if the management knew what the heck the team is talking about this is not something they should waste their time on. Managers have lots of things to do (collectively called “bigger picture”) which no one will do for them – this is where their time will be better spent.

Having said that an overall retrospective on the project or on a longer chunk of it (like a quarter or half a year) that would include management may make sense, but it would not necessarily include all team members (if you have many teams that would make it even impossible to do). Such a retrospective would concentrate on “big picture” and could be very beneficial – if there is of course a right atmosphere within company for people to be honest enough in such a retrospective for results to be useful.

Speaking of retrospectives – definitely worth buying is “Agile Retrospectives” Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. There is not much to read there – just a couple of introductory chapters – but it is a great cookbook of various techniques to use in different phases of a retrospective based on how much time you have and what is the retrospective about. Each technique has a description of how much time to set aside for it, how to facilitate it and where its place is the overall sequence of a retrospective.

Great help, since classic “what we did well? what we didn’t do well?” etc. becomes boring pretty quickly. Anyone who facilitates retrospectives on a regular basis should have this book.

[1]original question.

  1. Frede

    Great post. I think this explains it a lot better and in more detail than the Scrum Guide.


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