A lot of Scrum Teams are struggling to get stakeholder engagement in their Sprint Reviews. Without the proper engagement from stakeholders, Product Owners run the risk of not properly adapting the Product Backlog. There are many different ways to spawn better stakeholder engagement. This article is going to focus on an aspect often not considered: who is invited.
I was a Scrum Master for a team building a product for which the Product Owner had many stakeholders. Those stakeholders changed and grew over time as the product we were building impacted many people in that organization. As time went on, so did the level of attendance of the Sprint Review.
After about eighteen months of working on the product, our Sprint Review went from twenty or so people to well over one hundred. The level of attendance, to us at the time, seemed to be an indicator of success. The more people interested in our product the better!
However, we started noticing a lack of interactions and engagement in the Sprint Review. The level of conversation and questioning had diminished from what we had previously experienced. Surely it couldn’t be possible that we were always doing the right thing, could it?
I sat with the Product Owner and we had that very discussion: Why weren’t stakeholders chiming in as we discussed the incremental evolution of the product? The conclusion that we arrived at was that we had accumulated so many stakeholders over the course of the eighteen months that the event had gotten too large.
Stakeholders that she, the Product Owner, used to have to interact with very frequently were much more passive now. They had gotten what they needed out of the product while other stakeholders became highly invested in what we were doing. There had been a frequent evolution of interaction with stakeholders both new and old. We hadn’t adapted to that evolution and just kept adding people to the invite. It was time to re-think who should be invited.
As we had found out, too many people in a Sprint Review can be as bad as not enough. In my case, the Product Owner deleted the Sprint Review from the calendar and re-sent an invite to a much smaller group of people. She explained why and to her surprise there was a large amount of relief from people who had just been showing up because it was on their calendar. She hadn’t given up on communication and interactions with those stakeholders who were no longer on the invite but she had changed her strategy on how to communicate with them.
For some, hallway chats and an occasional email with updates were enough. For others, they no longer required any interaction. Yet others came back into focus months later and found themselves back in the review. Communication amongst stakeholders at the right level was a conversation we frequently had.
Product Owners should continually evaluate who their stakeholders are and what level of interaction those stakeholders need. The Sprint Review is the chance to collaborate with stakeholders who have a highly vested interest in what we are doing now. We should invite those who give the Scrum Team the best chance at adapting the Product Backlog given what we know now. It doesn’t have to be everyone.