So you’re at a sprint review/demo, and you do a quick lap around the room asking the engineering team to demo what they've been working on. Each person can showcase what they've produced throughout the sprint.
Sometimes there are other stakeholders in the room, often product managers. Does anyone else outside of the team showcase what they've been working on? Nope. Rarely.
This becomes a problem when trying to demonstrate the output of a team. The process can vary from org to org, but let's break down how small and large orgs are tackling this, and the changes PMs can make to ensure teams have clearer visibility and alignment with product performance as a whole.
In a small organization…
Small organizations (less than 150–200 employees) absolutely nail this concept of wrapping up the end of the week or two with a causal showcase and recapping where things are at with the performance of the product or company.
As an individual at a small company, you are much more likely to have a sense of how well things are tracking across the board. This is because you are constrained by the limited resources available to focus on more than a handful of concurrent initiatives.
In a large organization…
Large organizations (200 employees+) often have multiple engineering teams which lead to a slightly different dynamic.
When an engineering team in a large organization is holding a sprint demo/review session, they will often demo what they have been working on to get internal feedback, perhaps receive some last-minute feedback for tweaks around the edges, or giving it the rubber stamp of approval before being shipped to production.
Do the stakeholders in the room use the time to share what they've been working on in the last two weeks? Probably not.
It’s also common for an engineering team to not be informed about how successful things are, or have the full visibility of what the rest of the organization is typically planning. Because there is a desire to keep engineers focused on delivering, it can be a challenge to involve a broader team in planning initiatives.
This can be demoralizing in the long term as engineers can then be left with visibility of maybe a few weeks ahead of work and can lead to negative views along the lines of “things are always broken”, “we have a terrible product”. When in reality, things are going swimmingly well, everyone has achieved great results, and they just needed to check the rear-view mirror.
How do we change this?
Great product managers in large organizations are aware of this, and often work to change this.
They showcase what they have been working on during the sprint, and provide an update on how past product updates are performing.
This gives the team a window into how recent additions to a product are tracking and takes a look at the results they’re having on the business as a whole. This might include:
- Summarise recent customer feedback — share how recent product updates were received by customers.
- New / iterations on designs — share what’s in the pipeline and also provide engineering teams an opportunity to provide feedback on any early thinking.
- Review customer numbers and usage metrics — share what metrics are currently in focus and if recent product updates have moved the needle in an expected way.
- Report back on BAU metrics — share how much time has been spent on bugs or addressing tech debt. Where possible, it helps to provide additional context, for example, if the feature or platform is used by 1000+ customers and you only had 10 reported bugs with the latest update, that could still be counted as a success.
- Plans across the organization — share what is important and relevant for the team with regards to what other areas of the business are planning. Are there upcoming marketing campaigns, key milestone dates, and potential dependencies, how are they tracking?
Benefits of showcasing progress
The benefits of showcasing progress to the engineering team can really help foster a transparent, honest, inclusive workplace culture. Doing this during a meeting that is likely already scheduled and recurring is a great place to reflect on product performance over the last couple of weeks.
In today’s remote-first world, it’s becoming increasingly important to help everyone feel connected to the business and kept up to date with progress.
Let me know if you have any questions, or have other tips you use to keep the entire team informed of progress across the organization.