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Sprint Review Technique: Videos

February 18, 2015

File this one under: “how do you do Sprint Reviews when you have lots of teams?”  Indeed, the traditional presentation format gets long, boring, and ineffective when you have more than a handful of teams presenting at a Sprint Review.  From the point of view of an executive, this is exponentially true if you are overseeing many different products.  The Video Sprint Review technique can help.


I learned about the Video Sprint Review from Aaron Bjork at Microsoft, and if you skip to the ~40 minute mark of this video you can hear it too.  Basically, with hundreds of developers, it doesn’t make sense to do a presentation style Sprint Review every few weeks.  So they’ve adopted a pattern of “Sprint Mails.”  Each team sends out an email at the beginning of the Sprint with what they have planned, and at the end of the Sprint with what they have DONE, along with a video of the working software.  This email goes to all the teams and all the management:

 An example "Sprint Mail" from Microsoft. Sprint Plan on the left, Sprint Review including a Video on the right. 

A few things about this really work for Scrum at scale. And there are a few dangers.

What works is that it’s actually feasible that a single stakeholder could review dozens of videos each Sprint. Whereas a traditional Sprint Planning meeting would take hours and hours, these short videos deliver information in concentrates bursts. The constraint of a 2-3 minute time-boxed video encourages the team to show the most important stuff in a highly organized and distilled way. This scales well, both in size and in geography – much easier to work with a distributed team using this technique.

A few things to watch out for, besides the urge of creative folks to make Hollywood quality productions, as Aaron points out in his talk. This technique is largely unidirectional. The teams are telling the stakeholders what they’ve done. It’s incumbent on the stakeholders to speak up, and actively search out the teams and give feedback about what they’ve seen in the videos. This takes a special kind of culture, and managers are going to have to constantly work on creating this environment. The closer stakeholders and teams work together, the better product you’ll end up with.

Another thing to watch for is the Definition of Done. We need to be extremely clear on what DONE means, especially when it comes to deployment environments, as a lot can be concealed in a video. Perhaps a good addition to these Sprint Mails would be a DoD checklist, or starting the video with a quick review of what DONE means.

With these things in mind, I hope you consider adding this technique to your bag of tricks. Video Sprint Reviews can be very effective at scale, with many teams, and with many products.


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