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Sprint Review vs. Sprint Retrospective: Key Differences

  • Agile and Scrum
  • Project Management
Created on :
September 13, 2023
Saket Bansal
Updated on :
September 18, 2023

As Agile approaches particularly Scrum, gain momentum in the world of project management, the importance of understanding various events and ceremonies becomes paramount. Among the most queried and sometimes misunderstood are the Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective. Here, we delineate the distinctions between these two Scrum events.

Understanding the Terms: Sprint & Iteration

Before diving into the differences, let’s clarify two often-interchanged terms: Sprint and Iteration. Scrum refers to its time-boxed duration as a “Sprint”, while non-Scrum approaches might use the term “Iteration”. Hence, one might come across both “Iteration Review” and “Sprint Review” or “Iteration Retrospective” and “Sprint Retrospective”, but their essence remains the same.

Sprint Review (or Iteration Review)

  1. Purpose: The Sprint Review is an event where the Scrum Team and stakeholders review the work completed in the last Sprint (typically two weeks).
  2. Focus on Product: This ceremony zeroes in on the product increment produced. The Scrum Team demonstrates the features they’ve completed, helping stakeholders visualize progress and provide feedback.
  3. Feedback & Direction: A core tenet of Agile is that the exact path to the end goal may not always be clear. By receiving feedback during the Sprint Review, teams can adjust their direction, ensuring alignment with the product goal.
  4. Outcome: The feedback from the Sprint Review might lead to modifications in the product backlog. Certain features or improvements suggested during this review might become part of the future product.
  5. Primary Audience: Stakeholders are the focal point of this ceremony as their feedback is paramount to the product’s evolution

Role of the Project Manager in a Sprint Review (or Iteration Review)

The Sprint Review is detailed in the Scrum Guide, emphasizing the roles of the Product Owner and Scrum Master. However, when implementing Scrum within project management, especially from the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam perspective, it becomes imperative to discern the Project Manager’s role in the Sprint Review.

Here’s an exploration of the Project Manager’s role in an Iteration Review, as perceived through the lens of the PMP exam:

  1. Stakeholder Communication and Engagement: During the Iteration Review, the Project Manager ensures key stakeholders are actively engaged and well-informed. They can also guide the Product Owner in pinpointing the right stakeholders for the meeting.
  2. Facilitating Team-Stakeholder Communication: The Sprint Review serves as an excellent conduit for communication between the team and stakeholders, promoting engagement and optimized value delivery.
  3. Meeting Facilitation to Achieve Objectives: While the Scrum Master or Product Owner might facilitate the Sprint Review, the Project Manager must ensure the session is conducted efficiently and its objectives are achieved.
  4. Ensuring Shared Understanding: It’s crucial for the Project Manager to ensure both stakeholders and the Product Owner have a mutual understanding regarding the work’s current status and its anticipated direction.
  5. Integrating Feedback: Central to an Iteration Review is the accumulation of feedback. From the PMP standpoint, the Project Manager shoulders the responsibility of ensuring feedback is not only collected but also appropriately integrated and addressed.
  6. Scope Validation: The Project Manager is tasked with verifying that the completed work is in line with the predefined scope. Where discrepancies arise, they might seek clarifications or propose alterations.
  7. Value Delivery: The Project Manager can support the Product Owner in determining the product’s readiness for market release, ensuring its value is primed for delivery.

Sprint Retrospective (or Iteration Retrospective)

  1. Purpose: The Sprint Retrospective is a feedback session aimed at the Scrum Team’s introspection about the Sprint. It is about identifying improvements for the next Sprint.
  2. Focus on Process: Unlike the Sprint Review, which focuses on the product, the Retrospective centres on the team’s process. It’s a moment to reflect on the way the team worked together, the tools they utilized, and their overall dynamics.
  3. Feedback & Improvement: The team discusses what went well, what could be improved, and plans for implementing these changes in the next Sprint.
  4. Outcome: Action items or improvement ideas might arise from these discussions. Some can be implemented immediately, like a change in a working agreement. Others might require more planning and could even find their way into the product backlog.
  5. Primary Audience: The Scrum Team itself is the primary participant. Their collective feedback is essential for enhancing teamwork and refining their ways of working.

Role of the Project Manager in a Sprint Retrospective (or Iteration Retrospective)

The Sprint Retrospective, within Scrum, is designed as a period for the Scrum Team to reflect on its methodologies and draft a strategy for advancements in the upcoming Sprint. While traditional Scrum doesn’t specify a role for the Project Manager during this process, integrating Scrum within a project management context provides a different perspective. Here’s an interpretation of the Project Manager’s role in a Sprint Retrospective, especially from the PMP exam standpoint:

  1. Continuous Improvement Facilitation: In a role parallel to the Scrum Master, the Project Manager can guide the retrospective, ensuring the team pinpoints improvement areas and devises actionable plans for the subsequent Sprint.
  2. Stakeholder Communication: Despite the retrospective’s internal nature, the Project Manager could be pivotal in conveying any notable process enhancements or alterations to external stakeholders. This role involves aligning and setting appropriate expectations.
  3. Risk Management: Within the retrospective’s scope, the Project Manager has the capacity to detect and address potential risks, assimilating them into the broader risk management blueprint of the project.
  4. Resource Management: Gleaning insights from the retrospective’s outcomes, the Project Manager might consider reshuffling resources or onboarding new ones to address the team’s requirements.
  5. Feedback Integration: With processes under discussion and prospective changes on the horizon, the Project Manager shoulders the duty of seamlessly weaving these alterations into the overarching project management framework.
  6. Team Cohesion Advocacy: Beyond the Scrum Master’s efforts to foster a harmonious team environment, the Project Manager can further this goal by tackling issues brought up in the retrospective, nurturing a foundation of mutual respect and teamwork.

In Summary

While both the Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective are feedback mechanisms, they serve distinct purposes:

  • Sprint Review: Feedback on the product and its direction, primarily involving stakeholders.
  • Sprint Retrospective: Feedback on the team’s process and ways of working, involving the Scrum Team.

Understanding and effectively utilizing these ceremonies is vital for Scrum Teams to ensure product alignment with stakeholders and continuously improve their work processes. Remember, the essence of Agile lies in its adaptive nature, making feedback an integral component of the process.

When preparing for the PMP Exam, it’s crucial to seamlessly blend traditional project management principles with agile. To support your preparation, we offer comprehensive live online sessions tailored to strengthen your project management expertise and prime you for the PMP exam. Discover more about our interactive PMP online courses.

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