The topic of my blog today is another one that is common on client's sites especially large scale agile delivery transformations using Scrum as the delivery Framework of choice. In this situation, there is likely to be a broad mix of people fulfilling the role of Scrum Master within the Scrum teams. These could be client staff both with previous experience and those being skilled to take on the role long term with no previous experience. It will likely include permanent staff from at least one of the big Technology Consultancies or System Integrators as well as a range of short-term contract staff engaged directly or through one of the other suppliers.
With this range of backgrounds and experience, it is no surprise that not everyone will be using a common terminology but will adopt the terminology from the cultures where they have already implemented agile or scrum. However, it is disappointing that many words have become synonymous for a critical event in Scrum which requires clear and specific outcomes from the event that ensure the Scrum Team can progress forward with the product delivery in an effective manner.
Firstly, there is nothing wrong with any of the specific events whether a Show & Tell, Showcase or Sprint Review when used correctly to achieve the desired and intended outcome from each event. This does not make them equal to each other as events, that are interchangeable and precisely the same in nature. At a time when it is quite important that there is a similar message being delivered across teams that include client staff, we should endeavour to create a shared language within the organisation or delivery centre. By doing so, this will enable those who are recipients of knowledge transfer in the transition of practices and development of new skills so that they organisationally embed while being continued once the supplier change agents leave.
My overall view on this has been formulated and adapted from working in many of these environments with many different people who are certified across all the options available in agile & scrum. My specific view as a PST is that in scrum we should use the language of Scrum and avoid this mashup of terminology that has somehow morphed into the agile methodology. That said mainly the agreed view from the communities I have worked with matches the use of terms in the Scrum Guide so does not conflict with any training based on this while at the same time giving extra tools/events that can be used to share information.
There is a specific intent to the event at the end of a sprint that serves as an inspect and adapt point for the scrum team and stakeholders to assess delivery of the product. If the intent of this event to be a shared inspect and adapt point by the Scrum Team, Stakeholders and other feedback or interested parties that the Product Owner feels are correct to gain insights from. Then the intent of the session is not being fulfilled, and this is not a correct implementation of Scrum or an effective way to gain feedback on the product. Words have meanings and are interpreted by those who receive them, and we have found that although Show & Tells, as well as Showcasing, are excellent events to impart messages to an audience they imply a one-way conversation. From experience the majority of Scrum implementations where the Sprint Review is run as a Show & Tell or a Showcase then this is the format of event that the team delivers to itself and interested stakeholders. This can result in a failure of the team to self-inspect the delivered product regarding the stakeholder's expectations and the belief that the stakeholders have been invited only as interested parties without any real right to comment. In turn this leads to demands by inexperienced teams to protect them from critical comments by stakeholders during this time while welcoming any comments that praise the work they have delivered as if they were unreasonable demands by senior management to give input out with the process of scrum by speaking to the Development Team instead of the Product Owner.
It is crucial to the Scrum Teams development as a team that they understand that the Sprint Review as the actual inspect and adapt event is a two-way process and the best opportunity they have to take feedback directly from wider stakeholders. Without having to add additional events that would take them away from work being delivered during the sprint. It is also essential for the Scrum Team to understand that in showing a working solution during the Sprint Review what the stakeholders see may cause them to have further insights or for knowledge about the product to emerge. The straightforward explanation of this is that in the beginning, it may seem right to have a design that includes a black background with white text on it. However a Scrum Team utilising user research correctly would quickly find out that many people have issues trying to read the content and would likely lead them to review this and discuss with the Product Owner the reasons to change this to something which users would find more comfortable to engage with and therefore drive more use of the solution. If this is acceptable emerging knowledge for the Development Team to expose during the Sprint and the Product Owner is happy to accept the change based on the explanation. Then why would this be any different if it was the wider stakeholders during the Sprint Review that gave this feedback? This is the intent of the Sprint Review to inspect the delivered increment as a product along with the Product Backlog as an artefact to inspect if the contents and ordering are still relevant given the inspection of the Done Increment being reviewed.
Show & Tells along with Showcases are beneficial events to run during the Sprint when the Scrum Team is engaging with more extensive interested parties who may fall under the traditional RACI theory of interested party. If the Scrum Team wants some quick feedback on a work item being delivered, then a Show & Tell to the selected parties they believe can give that feedback is an excellent choice to make. If the delivery centre or its management wants to make information on the products, it is delivering known to its full community or wider organisation communities. Then Showcasing is a great event to use at this point to let people know what is being worked on and available with the details of the team to contact should they require more detailed information.
The short snappy answer to this that many of my colleagues have agreed with over the years is that "The Sprint Review may contain a Show & Tell, however a Show & Tell on its own does not fulfil the requirement of the Sprint Review".