Stakeholders Missing at Sprint Reviews – Part Two: Too This and Too That

This blog post is the second in a series of three postings where I discuss eight of the reasons why stakeholders fail to attend sprint reviews and I offer suggestions for how to handle each cause.

In the first posting I focused on two reasons that I categorized as “Nothing to See Here.” Specifically: nothing done for a stakeholder to see, and work that is too technical for business stakeholders to review.

This posting focuses on three additional reasons that I categorize as “Too This and Too That.” Specifically: reviews that take too long, stakeholders that are too busy to attend, and time conflicts (too many things scheduled at the same time).

Takes Too Long

A third reason (the first two are discussed in Part One of this series) that some stakeholders don’t attend the sprint review is because, from their perspective, the meeting takes too long. In some cases, this complaint could be quite valid.

As a rule, the sprint review is timeboxed to be no more than one hour per week of sprint duration.

So for a two-week long sprint, the sprint review should be no more than two hours (usually less). If your reviews break this rule, analyze why and then inspect and adapt.

With that being said, we can all agree that however long the sprint review is, that time should all be high bandwidth (a lot of information exchanged per unit of time). If the meeting feels like it is dragging along then we should probably improve how we are doing our review meetings.

For example, suppose we have stakeholders that are frequently pulling the meeting tangential to its core purpose (i.e., inspecting the product increment and discussing adaptations). To improve the meeting flow, the ScrumMaster should rein in those discussions and potentially take some of them offline with an appropriate subset of the people in the room. I personally wouldn’t show up a meeting if I thought is was going to be a waste of my time — “There is usually about 20 minutes of value in that two-hour review, so I’m not going!”

Too Busy

A fourth cause of stakeholders not attending a sprint review is they are simply too busy. Have you heard these excuses: “Sorry, I have a lot of reviews to attend and I don’t have time to attend yours.” Or, “Sorry, I have other work related to my primary job. I am VP of a division you know, so I just don’t have time for these meetings.”

Both of these statements are indicative of serious organizational impediments. The main impediment is typically too much organizational WiP (Work in Process). (See blog post entitled: “The Counter-Intuitive Argument for Limiting WiP” for a more detailed explanation of this problem).

When an organization exceeds its WiP limit, it is working on too many things at the same time and therefore stakeholders have many demands on their time.

The obvious (but difficult for people to accept and implement) solution here is to reduce the WiP. In other words, don’t have 40 projects in flight if the organization only has the capacity to work on 15.  Here is a real example of how this strategy could play out…

Years ago when teaching a product owner class a student remarked, “I can’t get stakeholders to show up at my sprint review meetings.”

I asked, “Do those same stakeholders show up at other teams’ sprint reviews?”

She said, somewhat exasperated, “Yes, they do!”

I retorted, “Well, you aren’t going to like what I’m about to say… They should cancel your project (or at least put it on hold) and redirect your team to go work on another higher-priority project. Obviously your project isn’t a high priority.”  I was correct—she didn’t like what I had to say at all!

If your stakeholders are truly too busy to attend your sprint review meeting, the root cause to that problem may well have nothing specifically to do with your review meeting. To properly identify and resolve the issue, you should start with a root cause analysis.

Time Conflicts

Time conflicts are the fifth reason that stakeholders don’t come to sprint reviews. As I mentioned in my blog post “How to Determine Start and End Days of Sprints” the sprint review is typically the hardest Scrum activity to schedule because it involves people who are not members of the Scrum team (i.e., internal and external stakeholders). If the team chooses a time when the stakeholders are unavailable, then, of course, they won’t show up at the review meeting.

The practical solution here is to change the sprint boundaries (i.e., start and end days) of the sprint to accommodate a time when the stakeholders can actually show up.


In this second blog in the Stakeholder Missing from Sprint Reviews series I discussed three more reasons why I have seen stakeholders not show up at sprint review meetings: reviews that take too long, stakeholders that are too busy to attend, and time conflicts (too many things scheduled at the same time). I’d love to read your comments about these reasons in the comment section below!

Part One of this series focused on the two reasons of nothing to see and too technical. In Part Three of this series I will focus on the last three reasons that I see stakeholders missing from sprint reviews. I categorize these three reasons as “Simple Misunderstanding.” Specifically: not invited, management by exception, and everyday feedback.