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September 02, 2022

Sprint review vs retrospective – get it right

Project Management Scope
Jerzy Żurawiecki Content Specialist @BigPicture

Scrum Teams organize their work into Sprints, but that’s not the end of the story. To make the work more transparent and organized better, the creators of the framework have devised Scrum Events. Each one has a specific function and goal. The last two – Review and Retrospective – might confuse those who are starting their Scrum journey. Let’s dive into the Sprint Review vs Retrospective in more detail, then.

What are they? What are their goals? Why do Scrum Teams use them? And how do they differ from one another? It’s time to break it down and compare Sprint Review vs Retrospective head-to-head.

What is the Sprint Review?

Sprint Review

Simply put, a Sprint Review is a meeting where the Scrum Team presents the final progress of the Sprint to the Stakeholders. It’s an opportunity for the Stakeholders to ask questions and better understand the functionalities completed in a given period.

Furthermore, the team members let the Stakeholders know about any incomplete product functionalities in the Sprint. Subsequently, both parties are on the same page regarding the progress. This helps align the direction of future Sprints.

What is the goal of the Sprint Review?

To answer that question, look no further than the Scrum Guide: The purpose of the Sprint Review is to inspect the outcome of the Sprint and determine future adaptations.”

The work of the Scrum Team is supposed to provide value to the customers. The Sprint Review is an opportunity for the Stakeholders to see the results of the Sprint and make sure it responds to their needs.

Why is the Sprint Review important?

The Sprint Review is an opportunity for the Product Owner to remind the participants of the vision and the Product Goal. This reminder helps place the team on a well-planned journey. The Scrum Team is aware of where their work leads, which is a helpful introduction to discussing changes for the next Sprint.

The event presents Scrum Teams with some valuable benefits. Firstly, it provides the Stakeholders with a clear understanding of the Sprint’s accomplishments. When everyone is on the same page, delivering a functional and valuable product is much easier.

Secondly, it fosters a good relationship between the Scrum Team and the customers. The Developers (“the people in the Scrum Team that are committed to creating any aspect of a usable Increment each Sprint”) receive regular feedback. As a result, the product is in line with the needs of those who use it.

When does the Sprint Review take place?

As the penultimate event in a Sprint, it takes place almost at its very end. That’s because the Review relies on the completion of the planned items. Therefore, it happens when a Sprint draws to a close.

As for the duration, the Review is usually timeboxed at one hour per every week of the Sprint. However, the duration depends on the team and a host of surrounding circumstances.  This approach takes into account that longer Sprints tend to complete more items. Hence, the Scrum Team needs extra time to present the results, and the Stakeholders require additional time for a thorough discussion.

Who should participate in the Sprint Review?

The list of participants includes the entire Scrum Team and the Stakeholders. The Product Owner, the Scrum Master, and all the Developers should be present at the review meeting.

The Stakeholders are essential in the Sprint Review. Without their contribution and engagement, the fruits of the team’s labor won’t deliver the ultimate value.

Who conducts the Sprint Review?

The meeting itself is run by the Product Owner. However, the presentation of specific completed functionalities can be done by the team members responsible for developing them.

After the Review, Scrum Teams move to one last event before the Sprint officially ends. That’s what the second part of our Sprint Review vs Retrospective comparison is about.

What is a Sprint Retrospective?

Sprint Retrospective

In layman’s terms, a Retrospective is a meeting where the Scrum Team looks for improvements to the Sprint from the process perspective. This reflection meeting consists of two stages:

  • Inspection (the 2nd pillar of Scrum): the team looks for improvements,
  • Adaptation (the 3rd pillar of Scrum): the team decides how to implement the improvements.

To reach the right conclusions, many teams use these helpful questions:

Sprint Review – Most common questions

The list you see above is not definitive. Questions depend on the team’s domain or the culture, to name a few.

After the discussion, the team will pick the most impactful solutions and prioritize them. In some cases, they might end up in the Sprint Backlog. The attendants take a look at various factors, such as:

  • Individuals,
  • Interactions,
  • Processes,
  • Practices,
  • Tools,
  • The Definition of Done.

What is the goal of the Sprint Retrospective?

The purpose of the Retrospective is to improve the effectiveness of the Scrum Team. The Developers should learn from their previous experiences, reach conclusions, and try out ideas for improvements in the continuous improvement cycle.

Why is the Sprint Retrospective important?

Simply put, it allows teams to work better. It’s an unusual opportunity to talk about the roadblocks, anti-patterns, and things the team has done well with the focus on eliminating or minimizing negatives. But the results of the Retrospective can also improve what the team excels at even further.

Think about it. When you see a flaw in your workflow, and you fix it, does it improve your work performance? Quite often, it does. A productive Retrospective session will have the same effect on a team scale. As long as the members take the planned improvements to heart and adhere to them, of course.

When does the Sprint Retrospective take place?

It starts right after the Review. It’s the last event in a Sprint. The end of the Retrospective session marks the end of a Sprint. Generally speaking, the Retrospective should last as long as it’s needed, but no longer than 3 hours per Sprint.

Who should participate in a Sprint Retrospective?

Since it’s a meeting that revolves around the process itself, it’s usually exclusive to the Scrum Team members. Thus, the people participating in the Retrospective include:

  • The Scrum Master,
  • The Product Owner,
  • The Developers.

Unlike the Review, the presence of the Stakeholders during the retrospective is not desired. After all, it’s a team-focused event, so it should be confined to the aforementioned participants only.

Who conducts the Sprint Retrospective?

Usually, the meeting is held by the Scrum Master. It makes sense since the Scrum Master is accountable for the team’s effectiveness.” However, the Scrum Master can select a different member to run the Retrospective session. Having said that, that doesn’t relieve the Scrum Master of the overall accountability.

Sprint Review vs Retrospective – Final thoughts

As you can see, the two Scrum events vastly differ from one another. That’s why it’s so important to know the difference between them. I’ll leave you with a bite-sized description of the Sprint Review vs Retrospective conundrum: the Review focuses on the product, whereas the Retrospective centers around the process itself.

Here is a cheat sheet with the key aspects of both events. Keep it handy the next time you need a reminder.

Sprint Reviev vs. Retrospective – the main differences