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What do you do when your sprint review has negative feedback from stakeholders?

What do you do when your sprint review has negative feedback from stakeholders?

What do you mean by negative feedback? That would be my starting point.

Understanding feedback

Do you perceive the feedback as negative because the product or feature is not something that the stakeholders and customers wanted? If so, that isn’t negative feedback, it is just feedback.

The purpose of the sprint review is to get feedback that empowers the team to understand whether they are building the right thing, the right way, at the most valuable time. If the feedback indicates that you aren’t achieving that, great, you can pivot and build the right thing next time.

Embracing and leveraging feedback

Is it perceived as negative because the stakeholders expected more from the feature or product than the team delivered? If so, why?

  • Why do the stakeholders believe that the product or feature isn’t as valuable as they had hoped?
  • What were their expectations to start off with?
  • Why did the team believe that they were hitting the mark despite missing expectations?
  • Did the product owner fully understand the stakeholder requirements?

Again, this is valuable feedback and shouldn’t be perceived as negative.

Knowing what the problem is allows you to formulate a plan that directs the team’s efforts in a meaningful way and ensure that the next sprint review is a great outcome for everyone.

Poor experience

Is it perceived as negative because the customers and stakeholders felt that the sprint review was poorly executed and facilitated?

If so, this is great feedback.

As a scrum master or agile coach, you can work with your team to create a sprint review structure that really facilitates a great experience for customers and stakeholders. An experience that ensures that the product shines, great feedback is received, and that developers are empowered to move forward with confidence and inspiration.

If it simply a matter of presentation, that is relatively easy to fix.

So, be clear about the feedback that you are receiving and use that feedback to create value within the team environment.

Build better products/features

When customers and stakeholders tell us that the product or feature doesn’t meet their expectations nor does it solve their problems, that is exactly the feedback we are looking for.

It isn’t negative in the least bit. I would argue that it is incredibly valuable and positive feedback.

The product owner and developers can come together to evaluate why the product isn’t meeting customer expectations and seek to create backlog items, and prioritise those items, in a way that empowers them to delight customers in future.

Facilitating conversations in the review that allows developers to understand what problems customers are trying to solve and what value customers are looking to extract from a product helps ensure that the team move forward in building the most valuable elements for customers.

Sure, it can be disappointing for the team when they don’t get positive feedback on their efforts, but that isn’t the purpose of a sprint review. It isn’t intended to be a feel-good exercise for the team, it is instead about getting feedback that informs what the team work on next and how they create value.

Understand where things went wrong

Negative feedback allows the team to come together and reflect on where they currently are versus where they intended to be. Allows them to question how they could drift so far off course and build something that doesn’t deliver value to customers and end-users.

As a scrum master or agile coach, you must believe and know that you work with great people who are trying to do the best job they can. None of them wake up and enter the workplace with the intention of doing poor work. They want to excel. They want to delight customers.

So, how do you use the feedback to correct the course and get the team back into value creation? How do you leverage the feedback to inform the backlog and sprint backlog? How do you improve the developers understanding of what most matters to customers and end users?

This is a valuable part of the sprint review and informs the sprint retrospective where the team come together to see how and where they can improve. It provides you with great topics to discuss in the sprint retrospective and help the team recommit to achieving valuable sprint goals.

Improve the team’s process

One of the great outcomes of a sprint review that yields poor feedback is that the team get to think about how they can engage customers and stakeholders sooner.

Think about how they can understand the customer requirements and test whether they are on the right track sooner. Armed with faster feedback cycles, the team can ensure that they are building the most valuable thing and look forward to the sprint review where they receive confirmation that they have built the right thing.

The team may discover that there are impediments to progress that prevent them from doing a great job and address those to ensure that they receive rapid feedback from stakeholders, end users and customers.

It may simply be a process impediment that you can quickly and easily eliminate.

  • How do our current processes and systems support rapid feedback from customers?
  • How can we improve that process?
  • What systems to we need to implement to ensure we are on the right track?
  • Where are the delays coming from and how do we reduce or eliminate those delays?
  • How can we ensure that we are working on the most valuable item for our customers?
  • How do we ensure that we are solving the most compelling problem for our customers?

Use the sprint review to inform how the team can improve during the next sprint retrospective and you should find that you have fewer ‘negative’ experiences during sprint reviews in the future.

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