February 3, 2020

The Importance of the Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective

One of the teams I worked with suggested dropping the Sprint Retrospective and the Sprint Review from the Sprint and only do them every other Sprint.  

The team's Scrum Master said that it was...

"Ok, as it is empowering the team to make decisions and have a say in the process."

I disagree and here is why as I believe the issue goes further than the team.

Why....

In every event there is an opportunity to be transparent, inspect and adapt based on feedback. By not having an event we are missing an opportunity to be empirical and therefore we undermine the process of Scrum.

The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. The rules of Scrum are that it has 5 events, 2 of which are the Sprint Review and the Sprint Retrospective. If a Scrum Master allows the team to stop doing the events then they are not supporting Scrum.

The word "allows" looks like the team need permission from the Scrum Master. However there is no hierarchy in a Scrum Team, so the Scrum Master has no authority over the team, each member holds each other accountable to their words and for their actions. The Scrum Master is holding people accountable to follow Scrum, so maybe "allow" is right word. We can all allow behaviour that we like or dislike to happen. 

As a Scrum Master what options are available to you in this situation?

  • Ask the team to explain why the want to stop having a Sprint Retrospective and Sprint Review every Sprint.
  • Explain the value in the events, there purpose and how they link together. Plus reiterate what the team will miss out on if they don't have the event.
  • Explain that the events are time boxed; time boxes provide focus and we don't have to use all the time allocated to the event. If the event is finished after 10 minutes, it is finished we move on.
  • One of the stances of the Scrum Master is to be a Teacher - this is a possible teaching opportunity in which they could address the purpose of the event. A Scrum Master could let the situation to happen for short time and use it as a teaching opportunity, or not let the situation to happen and use it as a teaching opportunity. 

So lets assume as a Scrum Master we do all the things above and the team still flatly refuse to attend the events. Can a Scrum Master force them to attend? No, we treat people with respect and forcing someone to do something that they don't want to do is wrong
 
However, we can all agree that if they stop doing the Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective they are not following the Scrum framework. So what happens when a team don't care what framework they're using - Is that important to a team? 

No Framework = No Structure

If a team doesn't have a structure it is very easily to drift into chaos, especially if we're already in a complex product domain. It becomes easier to be less accountable, less open, less courageous, less focused, less respectful and less committed to being a professional. Trust will disappear and as a consequence mistrust grows so a greater level of governance and more "busy work" will appear from an organisation trying to take control of the situation.  

What happens when a team feels that they:

  • Don't own the process
  • Don't care what happens next
  • Don't see value in what they're doing
  • Not engaging with stakeholders for some reason, or stakeholders are not engaging with them
  • In danger of burnout as they are not seeing the benefits of working in Scrum

What happens - They're not living by the Scrum Values, they are not exhibiting what it means to be a Professional and allowing an organisation to see that their "Scrum" doesn't deliver the expect benefits meaning it needs to be changed to fit the organisation.   

This is a tough place for a Scrum Master to be with a team. As Steve Porter said when he spoke to Ryan Ripley in Agile for Humans -

"Teams need to feel empowered and to see progress" 

...if not they start to question why they do things. 

 
A possible way to resolve the question about removing the Sprint Retrospective and Sprint Review, the Scrum Master should look at when did the team last deliver something of value and felt like they made a difference? Then address how the events can help them deliver and talk to their stakeholders more.  

The issue may not be with the team, but with the organisation and this is where the Scrum Master works as an Change Agent in removing organisational impediments. 

So to answer the question - "Do they stop doing the Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective?

No, do it more often and highlight the issues!