Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The importance of having regular retrospectives

Over a period of time retrospectives because a mundane task and teams starts skipping this, some of the patterns I have observed.
  • Do a retrospective for 2-3 sprints
  • Repeat the pattern of retrospectives without any value addition to the team 
  • Not doing the retrospectives at all. 
Before the question of skipping retrospectives (or not doing altogether) arises we have to understand what we are trying to accomplish with retrospectives. Agile methodology thrives on inspect and adapt process. We continuously observe and make changes in our process for continuous improvement. Retrospective is the key event which facilitates this. There is no benefit in doing retrospectives without understanding this core principle. There is no value in forcing this down the team if they don’t understand the core benefits. They should see some value for time they spend on this. It shouldn't be because the process dictates or because the scrum master wants it. If this is not happening then do a retrospective of the retrospective.
  • Create a visible backlog of the action items created from retrospective. I prefer it in a separate task board. 
  • People should be able to see the progress. This will be the scrum masters backlog of impediments. One of the biggest complaint teams raise is that nothing happens to the action items in retrospectives.
  •  Assign people to each action items and review the progress periodically. 
  • Team might want to skip this because they might get bored with the same format and type of discussions. 
    • Do infuse creativity 
    • Put some new activities or discussions. 
    • Change the venue or style. 
  • This meeting is not only about finding impediments or feedback for continuous improvement. I have used this ceremony for improving people–people communication and building trust. 
  • Get a copy of Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great http://www.amazon.com/Agile-Retrospectives-Making-Teams-Great/dp/0977616649 
  • With some teams you don’t have to even do retrospectives after every sprint. They do it daily or after some major event. The feedback cycle for such teams is very short and they should be matured enough to understand this. I will recommend this only for matured team who are together for long 
If you are not having retrospectives or are not doing it regularly then also you might deliver what is expected by you but you wont be delivering using Agile principles. You will not improve continuously and will fade away like dinosaurs.

Once Nokia were the number one company in their domain but  now that space is occupied by Apple and Samsung. I don't even have to mention the problems faced by Black berry... to survive in this competition you will have to continuously improve.

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