Approval or feedback in the Sprint Review?

The Sprint Review meeting begins. The Development Team and the Product Owner show the client what they did during that Sprint. The client observes, but doesn’t say much, except for a few fundamental questions. At the end, the client approves (and even applauds) the work, says ‘good-bye’ and leaves.

Everyone thinks, “Wow! The meeting was a success!”. But, what if it wasn’t? In fact, I believe that this is one of the worst possible scenarios for a Sprint Review. It could only be worse if the client wasn’t present.

Did that client understand what was shown? Did he really care about what he saw? He will certainly care in the future, possibly when he uses the software and notices that it doesn’t entirely fulfill his needs.

Sprint Review purpose

The purpose of the Sprint Review meeting is not to obtain the client’s formal approval of what was done in the Sprint – i.e., a thumbs-up or an “approved” stamp in the contract. It’s also not UAT (User Acceptance Testing). The goal of the meeting is to gather feedback from the client about the Product Increment generated in the Sprint in order to do frequent course adjustments, thus reducing the projects’ risks. It is the Development Team’s and the Product Owner’s job – and obligation – is to :

  • request feedback from the clients;
  • invite them to test the product then and there;
  • encourage them;
  • ask questions;
  • present alternatives.

Did the client identify something that wasn’t exactly the way he wanted it? Great! Let’s simply not be defensive. There’s no reason to be afraid. We didn’t screw up. We didn’t ruin anything. In fact, we were expecting that. We try hard to get it right, of course, but we can’t read anyone’s mind. Even if we could, it wouldn’t change much, because the client will only know exactly what he needs after he can see something working. In the client’s mind, the product is built little by little, incrementally.

Even when everything goes wrong and the client thinks that all that was done in the Sprint is useless, at least we get that feedback before we spend months working on the project. It’s pure risk management, right?

In sum, the spirit of the Sprint Review is not:

“Client, is what we have done approved?”

But rather something like:

“Client, now that you have the opportunity to see (and try!) this Product Increment we’ve built for you in this Sprint, what can we change or add to make sure it fulfills all your needs?”

Do you want to know about effective Sprint Review meetings? Find out more about our Scrum training.


Foto de Rafael Sabbagh
Rafael Sabbagh

Rafael Sabbagh, cofounder at Knowledge21 and member of the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors between 2015 and 2017, is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) by Scrum Alliance and an Accredited Kanban Trainer by Kanban University. As an Executive, he has extensive experience in Product Management...


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