Demo, no review

8 people around a laptop having a meeting

In a recent blog post, Waterfall with sprints, we discuss a common anti-pattern of Agile adoption, resulting in teams practicing Agile techniques and routines without essentially change the way they approach product development to truly reflect the Agile principles and mindset.

How do you know if you are practicing Waterfall with sprints?

In this blog post, we talk about a common Agile anti-pattern involving demos, which we have experienced in numerous occasions. We’ll use Scrum terminology but what we cover applies to Kanban just the same.

In Scrum, Sprint Review is one of the core events that helps a team inspect and adapt. In particular, in a sprint review we inspect the product increment created by the team (or their attempt to create one) and adapt the product backlog based on the feedback shared by all the stakeholders.

This implies that demonstrating the latest product increment is an essential part of a sprint review, but not the only thing that takes place. In particular, we need to leave space for feedback to be shared and captured. Moreover, if the team’s velocity (or equivalent) is known, this meeting will be an opportunity for the Product Owner to make a forecast of when the team will be able to deliver – or deliver the next milestone – and share it with the stakeholders that are present.

Feedback cycle

Without running the risk of over-simplifying Scrum, we could say that the feedback cycle is all there, in our ability to produce a product increment, get feedback from stakeholders/customers and iterate again.

Inspection of the latest product increment leads to an adaptation of the backlog.

Increments enable iterations.

Waterfall with sprints

Now, let’s imagine a team who has fallen into the “Waterfall with sprints” trap. What will their sprint demo look like?

If we end up working with a fixed scope, fixed time mindset, then sprint reviews reduce themselves to just being sprint demos, i.e. a mere opportunity for Product Owners and teams to show stakeholders how much progress towards the finish line has been made to date. Stakeholders will be happy if we tell them that there isn’t much left to do, and less happy if we tell them that we’re still far from the finish line.

Customer feedback is no longer taken into account, does not affect future outcomes, and changes of direction are not welcome because they affect the project schedule. We are no longer measuring value.

Going to your team’s demo is a great way to detect whether you have fallen into the “Waterfall with sprints” trap.

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