energising the iteration review

Today was the last day of the iteration, and so I decided to make some changes for the iteration review meeting. One month ago the day had gone very badly (see the product owner must pull), so today we needed to recover a great deal of lost trust, credibility and morale. Here’s what we changed:

we moved out of the boardroom
Previous iteration reviews had been held in the boardroom. They were formal affairs, in which the development teams sometimes seemed to be almost on trial. The imposing setting made the directors – who are the Product Owners for the company’s various products – feel at home and in control. But it made the developers feel as if they had been called into the headmaster’s office. So this time we held the day in the team room. In the engine room. Busy desks, PCs set up for pair programming, information radiators all around the walls, and all dominated by the task board at one end. A place of work, and a change of dynamic.
we didn’t prepare a demo
The tradition had been to prepare a releasable CD and install it on a clean machine in the boardroom; this installation would then be used to demonstrate the increment’s features. We decided that the effort required to prepare all that was greater than the benefit we would gain by “practising” a release and installation. So today each new feature was demonstrated on a developer’s PC. We walked the Product Owner through the completed stories column on the task board, and for each story we turned to the developer who knew the most about that story. The developer showed the feature on his own PC, with the audience crowded around him. No PowerPoints, no clean install. But loads of energy. There was a real buzz as each story card in turn was demonstrated – a real connection between the backlog and the working software.
we held an iteration retrospective
After the increment demonstration we held a time-boxed iteration retrospective. A lot had changed since the last iteration boundary, and the team gained much by reviewing the progress it had made. It turned out we had recorded a roughly 20% increase in velocity – and a 100% increase in morale. The whole team committed to measure likely areas of muda in future iterations, and individuals committed to improving specific aspects of their own processes. By the end of the time-box the team really felt like a team.
we had a full backlog
After the previous iteration review we had implemented iterative backlog creation. So after the retrospective our analyst was able to present loads of stories for consideration at the top of the backlog. We put them on cards on the task board, and the Product Owners moved them around until they had selected one iteration’s worth of business value for us to develop next. Instead of PowerPoints in the boardroom, we had the company’s directors physically engaged in the project. The team watched with broad grins as the cards were touched, discussed, moved, pinned, unpinned. At one point we had two directors squatting on the floor looking at the rest of the backlog for comparison. Suddenly everyone was connected.

The day was a complete turnaround from the previous iteration boundary, and the team is now fired up and raring to go…

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One thought on “energising the iteration review

  1. I see that you wrote this post a few years ago, but it is just as relevant today. Although having the iteration review meeting in the board room has often worked for me, being willing to stop what isn’t working and trying something new is what Agile is all about. Dropping the demo prep and just demoing on the fly, story by story, was a great move as well. Did you ever write a follow up on this, i.e. any more tweaks to the process?

    I wrote an article on iteration meetings as well that may contain a few useful nuggets. Anyway, thanks again.

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