Sprint Review vs. Sprint Retrospective (2022 Guide)

After endless cups of coffee, you’re finally reaching the end of your first scrum cycle.

You made your product backlog, honed your to-do list into a sprint backlog, and worked hard to bring your ideas to life. Now you’re done, right? Not quite. The scrum sprint isn’t over until you’ve held your sprint review and sprint retrospective.

To those new to agile development, “sprint reviews” and “sprint retrospectives” may seem identical, but there are important differences between them. We’ll cover those details in this article.

Table of contents

What is a sprint review?

A sprint review is a meeting you hold straight after a sprint to analyze everything you accomplished during it.

Everyone on your scrum team should attend the sprint review, including your Scrum Master and the Product Owner. If anyone outside your team participated in the sprint (like a web designer from the marketing department, for example), you should invite them too.

What is the purpose of a sprint review?

Sprint reviews have three main goals:

  1. Review the team's progress. The scrum team analyzes the work they completed and highlights what is working, what isn't, and what they need to work on going forward.
  2. Give developers extended business context. Many developers get stuck viewing their product through a microscope. The sprint review puts their work in context so they can see how each functionality impacts the product as a whole.
  3. Motivate the scrum team. Sprint reviews provide a space for people to give each other professional feedback. Feedback helps motivate people for the next sprint.

What topics should be discussed in a sprint review?

Typically, you will present each completed functionality, and the team will discuss it. As these discussions occur, the Product Owner will update the product backlog.

During a sprint review, the team will also discuss:

  • Any questions about product team members have.
  • Which tasks to focus on next.
  • Any problems people encountered and how they solved them.
  • Potential dates and times for the next sprint planning session.

How often are sprint reviews held?

Sprint reviews are held once at the end of each scrum cycle — so about every three to four weeks.

Each sprint review session lasts up to four hours (with breaks). Each hour focuses on a different week of the sprint. If your meeting runs longer than four hours, it’s the Scrum Master’s responsibility to intervene.

What is a sprint retrospective?

Once you’ve finished your sprint review, you move on to your sprint retrospective straight away. A sprint retrospective is a meeting you hold to review the development process.

Only the sprint team, the Scrum Master, and the Product Owner should attend your sprint retrospective.

What is the purpose of a sprint retrospective?

Sprint retrospectives aim to answer questions like:

  • What did we learn from our last sprint?
  • What went well during our last sprint?
  • What could we improve for our next sprint?
  • What steps can we take to improve our efficiency?
  • How can we support each other better as a team?

What topics should be discussed in a sprint retrospective?

Sprint retrospectives are not an avenue for venting or complaining but a space for members of your development team to brainstorm realistic and actionable ways to address challenges that come up during the development process.

Typically, people will list issues they faced, and your team will come up with potential solutions to try during the next sprint. By the end of the session, you should have a list of problem-solving strategies and ways to implement them.

Common topics covered include:

  • Self-reflection on how each team member felt they worked
  • Communication problems
  • Documentation problems
  • Technical problems (like lack of access to a dev tool, for example)
  • Logistical challenges

One common problem that occurs in sprint retrospectives is that it devolves into finger-pointing. It’s the Scrum Master’s job to stop this from happening and keep discussions on track.

How often are sprint retrospectives held?

Like sprint reviews, sprint retrospectives are held once every sprint cycle.

If you’re trying to pencil your sprint reviews and retrospectives into the calendar, you’re probably wondering, how long is a sprint review compared to a retrospective?” Sprint retrospectives are slightly shorter — typically three hours or less.

Sprint reviews vs. sprint retrospectives

So, a sprint review focuses on what your team is developing, while a sprint retrospective focuses on how your team will get there.

Here’s a table of the other differences between these two types of scrum meetings:

Difference Sprint Review Sprint Retrospective
Focus The product The team
Purpose Establish what was accomplished during the last sprint. Improve the development process.
Timing Held straight after the sprint is finished. Held straight after the sprint review.
Length 30 mins - 4 hours 30 mins - 3 hours

How to make sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives interesting

Now, sprint reviews and retrospectives are long, especially when you schedule them back-to-back, as many teams do. So, how do you keep your team’s energy high? Try these strategies:

  • Schedule a team lunch so people can bond
  • Provide snacks and refreshments so people don’t get hungry
  • Schedule a fun, five-minute activity in between sections (popular games include charades, Simon Says, Red Light, Green Light, paper airplanes, and quizzes)
  • Hold your meeting in a room with comfortable seating and plenty of natural light
  • Get people moving with stretches, short walks around the block, and yoga

You should also tell people exactly what to expect and create a schedule for the day. People will find it easier to focus when they know when their next break is.

When it comes to keeping the content itself engaging, try letting everyone present their own work, keep your demos conversational and lighthearted, ask your Scrum Master or Product Owner to be the emcee, and celebrate wins.

Make your sprint fun with EasyRetro

Sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives are both meetings held at the end of a sprint cycle. You discuss your product in your sprint review and reflect on your progress as a dev team in your sprint retrospective.

One thing sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives have in common is that they are long. Naturally, it’s often difficult to keep people on track and focused.

That’s where EasyRetro comes in. EasyRetro gives you a board for everyone to collaborate on. Your board is fully customizable — you can change colors and create and name columns. EasyRetro even integrates with Slack.

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