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Retrospectives: making a good agile team great!

2 August, 2011

También disponible en Español.

First of all, the disclaimer “I didn’t read the book yet, but after watching this vídeo I’m definitely planning to do it.”

One of the things that I always look forward to improve are retrospectives. If you don’t know what this is:

A retrospective is a special meeting where the team gathers after completing an increment of work to inspect and adapt their methods and teamwork.

In organizations where teams develop using iterative, incremental methods, Agile retrospectives at the end of each iteration or increment stimulate continuous improvement throughout the project.

I recently found this presentation by Esther Derby (@estherderby) and Diana Larsen (@dianaofportland) where they explain their 5 steps approach to successful retrospectives, based on their book “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great”.

This is an ongoing, and linked process, that just flows naturally at the end of each iteration, moves right into the retrospective. The framework that they propose is during that retrospective, go through five chuncks of work that the group need to do in order to have a succeed:

  1. Set the stage.
  2. Gather data.
  3. Generate insights.
  4. Decide what to do.
  5. Close the retrospective.

1. Set the stage

Set the container for the work you’re going to be doing. For example what is the goal for this particular retrospective, checkins, working agreements, outline the approach for the session.

2. Gather data.

We are prepared to analyze and process data as individuals in an environment where sharing ideas sometimes it’s called cheating.

One of the reasons why teams often struggle in processes like retrospective and planning is because they are not used to thinking together. And so, gathering data is one of the first things to do in this process of really beginning to think together. We gather data not only about facts but also about feelings, to analyze the satisfaction or energy of the team during the iteration.

3. Generate insights.

After gathering the data is time to ask “how did things get to be the way they are? what where the causes and patterns? what this data tells us about how we are working together?”

One method to do this is called “the learning matrix”, you divide a sheet of paper in four and you write:

  • :) what went well
  • :( what didn’t go so well
  • *-:) (light bulb) ideas or things to do differently
  • ⚘ (bouquet or flowers) for who do we want to appreciate?

4. Decide what to do.

Look for concrete actions to take in the next iteration, don’t pick too many initiatives, one or two experiments, and make sure you review them in the next retrospective.

5. Close the retrospective.

End the retrospective decisively: don’t let things dribble away into another meeting. Do a retrospective on the retrospective and close the session.


Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great (Pragmatic Programmers)

Image property of LIFE

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