In the spirit of giving, and receiving (feedback, that is!)

I'd like for you to think to the last time you went out for a sit-down meal with friends or family. You were (hopefully) welcomed to the establishment by someone, and seated at a nice table.

Very often, a server will come by your table to greet you and asks the following question in some way: "Did you have any questions about any of the items on our menu?"

Now if you are like me, I normally have a pretty good idea of what I'm looking for but sometimes I may have questions about a particular item. "How much cheese comes in this?" is one you may hear. Also "How big is the portion?", maybe "Does this come with any sides?" even though it says that right at the top of the 'entrees' section :)

This dialogue is me getting on the same page with the establishment so I can make a choice. It's a back-and-forth, rather than one sided "Hi I'd like a #1" from a fast food joint.

Once you order the food, you hang out a bit and enjoy the company and eventually the food comes. At this point you may hear a few different questions, such as:

"Is everything cooked to your liking?" well as...

"Is there anything else I can get for you?"

These are pretty specific questions about the food you had ordered, and they are looking to see how you are and if you are happy. The focus is on that food, as well as if you are satisfied with that food, and if there's anything else they could do for you.

Most of the time, I give the plate a quick look and let them know everything looks wonderful, the dish was cooked as I like it, or maybe ask for a side of dressing or another fork, who knows. We are having a conversation about the food I was just served and I'm offering my feedback on it.

What I like about the questions that the server asks is that it's asking for my input, in the hopes that I'm happy with my meal and that I have a great experience.

The server, and the restaurant as a whole is doing what it can to make sure you have a good experience. They are asking questions and looking for feedback along the lines of:

"We've done this for you and hope that you like it, what do you think?"

This same approach is one you can take with respect to your Sprint Review activities if your organization leverages Scrum. You are welcoming folks into your Sprint Review in the hopes of getting some feedback on your accomplishments. You are demonstrating your Product Increment and asking others what their thoughts are.

Think back to the server from the example above. Have you ever had a server take way too long to explain the menu? Go through that long specials list? Never really ask you what you think, instead just talk to you and ramble on and on and on?

Your audience will shut down and not really offer up much if it's a one-way conversation. Make sure to stop and check in with them on a frequent basis. Too often a team will get on a roll showing things and have to be interrupted by the participants with questions or feedback. Try to stop yourself and check in with them to see what their thoughts are!

Another point I like to bring up during my classes. I have found that it's very different to ask:

"Do you have any questions?"

as opposed to:

"Do you have any feedback?"

You may have people sitting there, waiting to offer up their thoughts. However if you simply ask them if they have questions, they may have none. They may have a laundry list of feedback, but they may not need any clarification on what they just saw. The reason I mention this is some folks will take that question very literally, and say to themselves "I have no questions, I get what I'm seeing, but they didn't ask me to share what I thought they asked if I needed any other information".

Ask them for their feedback, I'm pretty sure they have some for you :)

Finally, I'd offer up this suggestion to those that would be in attendance at a Sprint review to offer up their thoughts. In class activities as well as in practice in the real world, it seems that many folks who attend a sprint review have a tendency to gravitate to what they DON'T like. I'm not sure why it occurs, but many times when you ask someone for feedback it seems like it's 8 comments in the realm of "I don't like this" or "this is WRONG" for one occurrence of "I really like what you did here!".

Take the time to offer up both a mix of items that you like and think are helpful. I'm not asking you to go down that "say 2 nice things, say 1 bad thing" cookie cutter type statements you hear about in leadership class. Be honest about what you are seeing, what you think is helpful as well as comments that the team can use to get closer to mission goals.

It's a big "light bulb" moment when I'm watching students give each other feedback and I ask the question "does anyone see anything that they actually like? Is there anything here that you guys think this team did well, something that could give them a bit of direction moving forward?". You can get ahead of this in your Sprint Reviews by taking a few actions before hand as well as during the session.

#1 - By "Setting the Stage", you can let everyone know that you appreciate them taking their time to visit with the team in the hopes to solicit feedback. Let them know that the team will be demonstrating some things in the hopes of getting input from attendees so they can inspect and adapt moving forward in their activities.

#2 - While demonstrating the Product Increment, make sure to pause more often than you normally would and ask very straightforward questions like "Do you have any feedback on this particular item?" instead of just rolling along to the next thing to demonstrate.

I was inspired by this post when sitting at dinner on a recent out-of-town training engagement. I was very impressed with the staff of the restaurant and how great the conversation was with them. They asked me how I was doing, what questions I had, if I had feedback. The conversations were regular, instead of coming by once to check on me. The staff wanted to have a conversation because they were interested in how I was doing and figuring out what they could to to make my stay an enjoyable one. Try to do the same for those you invite along to your Sprint Review, I'm confident it'll help your team as early as the next conversation you have in the Sprint Retrospective.

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