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Showcase, Show & Tell or Sprint Review

January 17, 2020

The topic of my blog today is another one that is common on client’s sites. The use of the terms Showcase, Show & Tell or Sprint Review. In this situation, there is likely to be a broad mix of people fulfilling the Scrum Master roles. These could be client staff both with previous experience or people with no prior experience. It will likely include permanent staff from at least one of the big Technology Consultancies, System Integrators or 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 common terminology.

So which event is best to use?

There is nothing wrong with a Show & Tell, Showcase or Sprint Review when used correctly to achieve the desired outcome. However, usage does not make them equal to each other as events that are interchangeable and the same. There must be a similar message delivered across teams, and we should endeavour to create a shared language within the organization.

By doing so, we enable recipients of knowledge transfer to develop the required new skills. Doing so leads to embedding organizational change once the supplier change agents leave.

My overall view on this has formed from working in many environments and people certified in Agile & Scrum. Usage of terms in the title has been adopted where discussed in relevant communities of practice.

The intent of each event

The specific intent of a Sprint Review is to inspect and adapt the delivery of the product. If this event intends to be an opportunity to inspect and adapt by the Scrum Team and Stakeholders, then the intent of the session is not being fulfilled if there is no practical way to gain feedback on the product.

Although Show & Tells, as well as Showcasing, are significant events to impart messages, 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 results in a lack of that feedback.

The lack of active feedback results in the failure of the team to inspect the delivered product. In addition, it promotes an understanding the stakeholders are 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. While welcoming any comments that praise the work they have delivered.

The Sprint Review

It is crucial to the Scrum Teams development that they understand the Sprint Review is a two-way process. Giving the opportunity to take feedback directly without having to add additional activities that would distract them away from work in progress during the Sprint.

It is also vital for the Scrum Team to understand that in showing a working solution. What the stakeholders see may cause them to have further insights about the product. As an example, it may seem right to have a design with a black background and white text on it. However, a Scrum Team utilizing user research would find out many people have issues trying to read the content.

If this is acceptable emerging knowledge for the Development Team to expose during the Sprint, then why would this be any different if it was the stakeholders during the Sprint Review that gave this feedback?

Given this stakeholder feedback, it is an opportunity to inspect and adapt the Product Backlog while considering if the contents and ordering are still relevant.

Show & Tells/Showcases

Show & Tells, along with Showcases are beneficial events during the Sprint when engaging with more extensive interested parties. These parties may fall under the traditional RACI theory of the interested party.

If the delivery centre or its management wants to make the products, it is delivering known to its wider organization? Then Showcasing is a great event to use at this point letting people know what products are currently in production with the details of the team to contact.

The short snappy answer that many 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”.

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