Inspect and adapt your retrospective (agile 2012)

Retrospectives – How do we get better?

The purpose is to Inspect and Adapt. We what to optimize the future by looking back. Trying to learn and avoid yesterdays problems and redo the things we did well. We are doing retrospectives at least after each iteration. 

Retrospective focus on what went wellwhat didn’t and what could be improved.

What are missing? Why are we not getting the full value of aur retrospectives? Why are we getting lack of energy within the team when preparing for a retrospective? Why are the results and learning points not making “our Great team Greater”?

Ester Derby suggest that most Retrospectives are not prepared enough, not enough data and not the right data!

Well, I agree with Ester Derby. At lease I (as the Scrum master) tend to have too little team data with me into my Retrospectives and we tend to focus our talk on subjective opinions and observations. This could lead to us overlooking very important issues.

What to do about this?

I think that it would be easier if the whole team is responsible of providing different metrics from the sprint into the retrospective meeting. A good way to make this commitment is to have a “Retrospective Setup Meeting” in the start of the project or when you need to revitalize your Retrospective meetings. 

An other issue is the with our retrospectives are rising when having done more than 10 sprints or like. Retrospectives seems to get a bit difficult to continue preserving the same drive/passion within the team as everybody are getting a bit bored by for of the form and activities of the Retrospective meeting. 

Ester Derby and Diana Larsen has a cut out plan of how to run a retrospective with a lot of variation described in their book “Agile Retrospectives – Making Good Teams Great“.Your must follow all 8 steps:

1. Set the stage
2. Gather Data
3. Generate Insights
4. Decide what to do
5. Close the Retrospective
(6. Incorporate Experiments and improvements)
(7. Build product)
(8. Deliver product increment)

In their book there are many great suggestions to conduct and provide information from the steps from 1-5 which must be revisited once in a while.

Well, by applying some new way to provide information to the Step 2 “Gather data” of the retrospective we are surly able to kick some new energy into these meetings. Below I like you to focus on the step 2. “Gather data” as the rest of the steps are just there to get an idea of the hole picture of a typical Retrospective Meeting.

1. Set the stage.

Start with a Icebreaker like “Check the Team temperature”. Here every person gives a number from 1 to 10 or everybody in the team 

2. Gather data

Here we have different new ways of doing this:
A. Tell some Positive things and things you think must be changed [Plus / Delta – list]
B. Speedboat - What is the anchor, wind, Agile island
C. Starfish – 5 questions: Keep doing, stop doing, Start doing (3 things – reduced)
D. Learning Matrix: What is working, Not working, What new ideas do we have (be daring)….. make dot voting, Thanks (who do you what to thank)
E. Question retrospective: Fortune cookies – Put questions inside and make the team members take a cookie   followed answering the question.
F. Spider web / team radar: Find your questions yourself and rank it. (Tech. debt.., coordination with other teams, team cooperation).

3. Generate Insights

Here we evaluate the data to create a greater insight of the Sprint.

Like using the “5 why’s

4. Decide what to do

We get a long list of actions….. we make dot voting (prioritizing)…..create action items….. somebody to focus on the action item.

5. Close the Retrospective

Retrospective process improvement: Reflect back on what happened during the retrospective and expressing appreciation.
Some of the ways to gather data also provides appreciation and you can use this information right here just remember to express it again – always END the retrospective on the high node…..everybody is leaving positive.

I got inspired to write this blog after attending the session at Agile 2012 called “Raven retrospectives – Innovation games and other techniques to facilitate creative retrospectives” by Kate Megaw and Brian M. Rabon two inspiring persons from the company braintrust in UK. Here is the slides from the presentation

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