The sprint close

In this article I am going to talk about one of the most important and often underrated meetings within any agile process: The sprint close.

In particular we are going to focus on how to run an effective sprint close within an agency and provide some tips for getting the most out of it.

sprint_close.jpg

The purpose

The real power of agile lies in the ability to iterate. Every sprint cycle should result not only in deliverables but should also provide an opportunity to stop, discuss and learn how to improve how things are being done.

It’s a freeing process but in an environment where time is extremely scarce and clients are calling, the sprint close within an agency is often put on the back burner or deemed to be less important - the work is already done and delivered right?!

Other times the sprint close will happen but it becomes nothing more than a collective pat on the back. Don’t get me wrong, that is important too but it’s equally important that there are documented learning outcomes and that someone is going to action these.

Attendance

Due to the sprint cycle format the sprint close will often fall on a Friday afternoon. This is a good thing as theoretically at least this is the most relaxed part of the week in an agency: no deployments, clients don’t normally expect deliver and people are winding down for the weekend.


It should be about everyone having an equal say, not a management meeting

Traditionally the various teams in a business would have their own individual sprint closes which in a non-agency environment can work well. While there is nothing wrong with this, within a digital agency, especially a small-mid sized one sprint close is a fantastic opportunity to get the entire team together, share successes and learn from each others mistakes. After all we don’t want to create complete silos and too much competition between teams. Therefore a collective agency-wide meeting is a great idea.

Also it is important to make sure people respect the importance of the meeting. Inevitably some people will be busy with something unmovable but once a few people start regularly not attending it will quickly start to become unproductive.


An example meeting format

The format of your meeting will depend on your team size and culture but below is a suggestion of how the meeting might look:

Company announcements

Get someone to share new clients won this week or new work sold. It’s a great for morale.

Completed work

Briefly talk about items completed in the sprint and what is coming up / who is on vacation next sprint

Gather feedback from the entire team

Go around the room and get everyone to input something.

Share team success

Pick three people to demo work completed within the sprint.


Getting the most from it

While this is great because of the above it can often mean that getting everyone to attend and engage can be something of a challenge. Here are a few tips for making the meeting as productive as possible:

Designate someone to answer the phone during the meeting.

They can still attend but it will avoid everyone else getting distracted

Keep it a reasonable length

No more than 1 hour, preferably 30 mins. People will be dreaming of the weekend and soon become unengaged

Keep it fun

Perhaps have snacks or booze but definitely don’t make it too serious. You will get more out of people.

Designate someone to take notes and log actions

Have them circulate them afterwards so that any learning doesn’t get lost after the meeting.

Have people present completed work

This is a great way to build pride in people’s work and really drive home that things have been achieved.

Don’t be railroaded by negativity

Make sure criticisms are productive and not a way to bring the entire team down. Acknowledge problems and promptly make a plan to fix them. Often it is good to ask the person reporting the problem for how they think it should be resolved.

Don’t let anyone person talk to much and probe quiet people

It should be about everyone having an equal say, not a management meeting


Summary

Following these tips should ensure the team has full closure on the current sprint and go into the weekend feeling with a sense of achievement and geared up to start the next iteration. None of rules are set in stone, they are just guidelines and it is important to tweak it for what will work for your company.