Scrum Ceremonies – Demo/Review or Showcase
 

The following Scrum ceremonies are to be understood well.

  1. Planning and grooming
  2. Daily Standups
  3. Demo/Review or Showcase
  4. Retrospectives

Let’s talk about Demo/Review or Showcase in this article

A showcase, demo, or sprint review represents one and the same thing. A sprint review is an informal meeting that typically takes the form of a demo of the completed features or what is accomplished during the sprint to the product owner (And rest of the team).

This can be done as and when the work is completed over waiting for the last day of the sprint to arrive. This mitigates the risk of incorporating review comments which may result in sprint failure if the demo is done on the last day of the sprint.  In case if there are review comments, that should be fixed, and once again demo to be conducted for the story which had review comments.

The whole team should participate. Although the team needs to get the buy-in from PO to change the story to done-done while the feedback from the whole team helps.  You can invite other teams, support, or customer as needed.

One of the core objectives of the demo is to review progress against the sprint goal and team commitment. It is an opportunity to get everyone on the same page in terms of what was accomplished, what’s still in progress, and what tradeoffs were made.

Best practices around Demo/Showcase

  • Prepare, prepare, and prepare – Don’t go to the demo meeting and start talking randomly. Everyone’s time is important including you.
  • Practice before the demo – Run the workflow or the feature you have built. This ensures everything works.
  • Give importance to Acceptance Criteria – You can always talk about nonfunctional requirements while the focus should be on acceptance criteria. What value your feature is adding to the product/business.
  • Follow KISS – Keep it short and simple – Don’t complicate things. Make it crisp, cover all the points written down in the acceptance criteria. Give time to your team and the PO to ask questions.
  • Showcase Value – Do not focus on technology or the feature you have built works while do talk about business value. Feel the sense of pride or accomplishment in showcasing what you accomplished.
  • Communication – It’s key to success. Talk to the point. Listen to people (your team). Write down their feedback and comments. A good idea is to record the meeting so that you can always go back and listen to the feedback if any.
  • Involve right participants/stakeholders – Not just your sprint team or PO but you should be inviting folks representing your product business.  Folks on the actual ground adds lots of value to the project/product.
  • Seek Feedback – Accept the feedback positively. Your goal is your team success, making a product better, and help the organization to get more value.  This eventually helps you to grow faster.

 

Scrum Ceremonies – Planning and Backlog Refinement
 

The following Scrum ceremonies are to be understood well.

  1. Planning and backlog refinement
  2. Daily Standups
  3. Demo/Review or Showcase
  4. Retrospectives

Let’s talk about planning and grooming in this article

The entire sprint team works together and plan for the next sprint goals. The sprint planning meeting is attended by the scrum master, product owner, and rest of the Scrum team. The other teams may be invited on a need basis.

The PO ensures product backlog priority is up to date (At least top-level items) for the team to pick up items from the product backlog. The stories are picked up and prioritized. The PO usually talks about sprint goals and once that is finalized, the stories are being picked up for grooming.

For each story, the product owner writes down the description of the story and acceptance criteria. While grooming it can be further updated by PO and team. The team gets answers for their queries from the PO with respect to functional expectations. In addition to that teamwork together to identify dependencies, constraints, and nonfunctional requirements. The team typically elaborate more on functional requirements as well.  The stories are broken down into multiple tasks.

All the groomed stories are then estimated by the team.  Each story is tagged with story points or hours. The task usually is tagged with planned hours. The scrum master and team look at the velocity and capacity of the team and commit the amount of work that can be delivered in a sprint.

At the end of this meeting, the scrum team would have two artifacts ready

  1. Sprint Goal
  2. Sprint Backlog

 

Best Practices

  • I always suggest the team go with pre-grooming. Typically planning happens a day before or when we are about to start a sprint. Understanding every story the first time, grooming, tasking, and estimating take too much time. Due to time constraints, it is not very effective and done half-heartedly. Moreover, all the questions can’t be answered upfront. This is one of the main causes of sprint failures in most projects as you are not sure of what you are committing. One good idea is to keep looking at upcoming stories and clarify all the doubts with PO or other stakeholders in advance. Spending 30 minutes to an hour by few folks in team 4-5 days in the previous sprint helps to do much better for the next sprint.  With this, the planning meeting will have just three goals
    1. Explain everyone expectations from stories and get aligned
    2. Estimate
    3. Once #1 and #2 are done for all the stories, commit sprint.

Note: Many times, the business and competition demand last-minute priority work to be picked when you start the Sprint. This is fine as long as it’s minimal.

  • PO shouldn’t be telling how much work the team should be picking. The team should take a wise decision by looking at previous sprint capacity. The idea is to have sprint success and continuous improvement.
  • Always keep a little buffer for planning next sprint items, unknowns in existing sprints, and tech debts
  • A lot of teams prefer to keep 20% time aside to deal with tech debts. This may be a good idea while I always suggest the team to plan for this 20% during sprint planning and grooming only. What you plan is what can be accomplished.
  • Don’t be very aggressive as the quality of software in most cases is more important than quantity.
  • The team member shouldn’t be picking up multiple stories in advance. Each and every member should pick one story and once done they should move to the next one as per the priority order specified in Sprint. The exception of picking up the items within Sprint should be ok as long as the PO is good with that.
  • Always create a task for stories. Don’t just include tasks that have business values while do consider tasks related to development and testing. For instance testing, code reviews, writing tests, etc. Keep in mind, don’t write too many tasks.
  • Try to break down the story to as small as possible while if the estimation is going beyond then it’s important to divide that into smaller stories. There are instances where you can’t break down the story to the level where you are not getting business value out of it which is OK at a times but do avoid this situation as much as possible.
  • In the story where lots of research is involved and there are unknowns that need to be unearthed, prefer to go with Spike.
  • Trust each other and support each other.
  • Pair when needed while do not work on the same task in series unless absolutely necessary. I have seen with the offshore-onshore model, the story is being worked on one story offshore, and further, it is handed off to another team member onshore. These cycles keep repeating. The amount of productivity loss that happens in this approach is not worth it.

Important Tip – The scope creep can be managed within Sprint with only two ways

  1. Refuse new work in the middle of Sprint and take up that in the next Sprint.
  2. If it’s absolutely mandatory to pick the work in the middle, you need to take out an equal amount of work from Sprint.

At times, you are done with Sprint in advance, in that case, you can pick more work while it is always a better idea to increase your velocity and focus on tech debts, testing, and quality practices. You can even spend time on learning which is usually way more important than we usually think

Scrum Ceremonies – Retrospectives
 

The following Scrum ceremonies are to be understood well.

  1. Planning and grooming
  2. Daily Standups
  3. Demo/Review or Showcase
  4. Retrospectives

Let’s talk about agile retrospective in this article

No matter how great your team is, there is always scope to improve and get better. The retrospective is a way to accomplish this periodically. The main focus is to look at what is working and what is not? Further, what are the action items we have based on our learning?  The core focus of retrospective is continuous improvement which is one of the core philosophies of agile.

The primary agenda of this meeting  where every team member is expected to bring their points are

  1. What worked well?
  2. What did not work well?
  3. Action items to improve the process (Mainly action items are the result of what did not work well)

How to do it

  • Set the stage. Invite the entire team to a meeting (Scrum Master, Product Owner, Team and Customer if possible)
  • Give 10 minutes for everyone to enter their points towards 3 agenda items stated above. The recommendation is to use a tool (For instance noteapp) and send this to the whole team in advance to enter their points. This would save time for a team in meeting and moreover give enough time to team members to think and state their points.
  • Start with talking about previous retrospectives action items. Close the items which are accomplished.
  • Talk about what worked well, appreciate people, and motivate the team to continue utilizing the best practices.
  • Discuss what did not work well and come with action items
  • Assign owners to every action item.
  • Close the retrospective while action items to go to the action item register.

Best Practices

  • Typically it should happen after every sprint and should last between 30 to 60 minutes.
  • The whole team should participate.
  • This can be considered as a “lesson learned” meeting. The notes can go to organizational process assets  (Remember “PAL” or “Process Asset Library”).
  • The owners must be assigned to action items. The next retrospective should start with open items of previous retrospective meetings. I have seen, individual teams have excellent ideas while post retrospective nobody really thinks about it.
  • One of the recommendations is to have a retrospective of retrospectives to make it better.
  • Don’t point fingers instead work as a team and support each other.
  • Do not forget to appreciate your team members.