Sprint review vs. retrospective (with differences and goals)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

After completing a project, having a full understanding of the extent to which a company achieved its outcomes is an integral part of the business' ongoing processes. This establishes changes for future business behaviour and why the business saw particular results in the project. Understanding the difference between a sprint review and a retrospective is vital. In this article, we compare sprint reviews and retrospectives, the key differences between the two and when companies can use each type of meeting in a modern work environment.

Comparing sprint review vs. retrospective

When understanding the factors in a sprint review vs. retrospective, having a comprehensive and cohesive picture is important for establishing better meeting outcomes. After all, understanding the company's processes means the business works far more efficiently than previously. You use the right meetings in the proper context and work towards more reliable outcomes in the long term. Below is a rundown of how both approaches compare:

Processes

The sprint review and retrospective processes may sound similar but differ significantly. They fulfil different roles in the agile development and project management process. Learn more about the functions of a sprint and a retrospective review below:

Processes in a sprint review

A sprint review contains several different parts in its processes. The first is a demonstration, in which a development team shows the work the team completed in the previous sprint, whether a complete product, work in progress or simply a prototype. A discussion follows this demonstration, with different goals in mind. The objectives of the discussion are as follows:

  • Progress analysis overview: The discussion better informs stakeholders of the project's progress thus far. This includes explanations as to why progress is at its current rate and descriptions of key processes in the project.

  • Establishing business context: Stakeholders establish the current business context for the development team. This also informs developers on customer perspectives and insights, improving the customer experience of the final product.

  • Motivational factors: The Scrum team receives motivational and aspirational information. The discussion demonstrates the purpose of the work and guides staff on achieving their goals.

Finally, the sprint review contains a backlog update. At this stage in the process, the Scrum team describes the existing backlog and adds new user stories and descriptions to the current backlog. This update improves prioritisation in the next sprint cycle and focuses the team's efforts on a more productive outcome.

Processes in a retrospective

A sprint retrospective primarily contains a process of asking each other questions. This discussion entails establishing exactly how the team performed in the previous sprint and discussing further details from the sprint review. The inquisitive nature of the retrospective means that the team takes a deeper look at the outcomes of the sprint period. There are several different parts of a retrospective agenda, including the following:

  • Setting goals: The start of a sprint retrospective determines the objectives of the meeting, such as improving communication throughout the team or changing processes for the next sprint period.

  • Data gathering: Including qualitative and quantitative data, understanding team members' experience in the last sprint period.

  • Insight development: Finding correlations in the sprint review data is the next stage, as staff seek to identify patterns across each other's experiences and data.

  • Decision-making and conclusions: After developing insights from the data, the meeting establishes a series of findings and agrees on implementing changes to the employee experience.

A retrospective is the process through which employees have an influence over the next period of the company's operation. This means that a thorough assessment, as you see in the above list, is essential. Following each step ensures the best possible outcomes, a better working environment and a more effective team in the long term.

Related: How to write a meeting agenda (with tips and sample)

Timing

The timing of your processes is key. These ensure that your meetings are as effective as possible and benefit the company's future sprint sessions. The sprint review immediately follows the sprint session and engages everyone involved in the process. This meeting happens following the end of the Scrum sprint, as holding the meeting right after a sprint means that issues and information are fresh in the mind of all parties involved.

The retrospective takes place immediately after the sprint review. This is because the retrospective uses the information from the sprint review in an informal context whilst all of the information is as relevant as possible. Meeting duration varies in line with a few different factors, such as the number of points for discussion. Still, the retrospective always begins as soon as feasibly possible after the sprint review.

Meeting tone

The tone of the sprint review is a formal meeting. This is because a sprint review features the team members, company management and even clients of the organisation. In these instances, the company takes on a more formal role, establishing its progress throughout the project in an organised presentation. Formality in these instances is critical, demonstrating a solid image of the company for investors and presenting the best possible perspective of the business for potentially returning clients.

Conversely, a retrospective is more informal. This is because a retrospective occurs between members of the development team, with the potential for a member of management staff sitting in. Although retrospectives have specific agendas, staff members go through the agenda in a relaxed manner, discussing each point in full and reaching a conclusion amongst the team. Informally completing a retrospective increases employee comfort and enjoyment in the workplace whilst still achieving all of the company's targets and improving processes to a much greater degree.

Related: Product owner responsibilities within a development project

Attendees

The attendees of a sprint review and a retrospective differ significantly. A sprint review is a meeting that is more open to stakeholders and members of company management. This means that more people attend the meeting, establishing the perspectives of company members of staff, company management, vendors and even members of the product's target market. This helps establish a much broader level of information in the business, guiding future processes and targeting the best possible productivity and efficiency in the next Scrum sprint.

Alternatively, attendees of a retrospective are members of the development team. This is an essential part of the Scrum process, as the development team alone works on creating the product itself and finding solutions to issues. While developing a comprehensive image of the business situation is beneficial for the company, the development team having internal discussions means establishing new, more effective processes and working more efficiently.

Related: What is a Scrum master's role and how to become one?

Meeting goals

The two different meetings have significantly different goals. Firstly, the goal of a sprint review is finding common ground between all parties with an involvement in the product and the wider process. Many different stakeholders attend a sprint review, ultimately establishing an agreement between parties and ensuring that everyone has full information on a range of topics related to the project. From development progress to the customer's perspective, everyone with an involvement builds their base of knowledge with support from the rest of the organisation.

A retrospective, instead, has far more precise goals and outcomes. A retrospective takes part exclusively amongst members of the Scrum team to improve the Scrum team's performance. This could be the level of the development progress from sprint to sprint, team morale or even the quality of output from the group. Achieving these goals is key, improving the position of the broader company amongst its customers due to a higher quality of end product.

What is the Scrum framework?

The Scrum framework is an agile development framework focusing on a range of different factors in a company. Scrum focuses on iterative and incremental processes building on top of one another, ultimately producing a good value product for the customer at the end of the project. This is an increasingly popular development methodology due to its focus on flexibility and agility throughout the process.

The sprint review and retrospective are both integral parts of this process. They ensure that the incremental processes are as good as possible, providing a sound foundation for the development team as they build more and more processes on top of the organisation's core. Sprint reviews and retrospectives keep development teams on the right track and ensure a more effective team providing a better quality product in the long term.

Related:

  • What is a 360 review? (With advantages and disadvantages)


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