Saturday, August 20, 2011

Better Retrospectives

In Scrum (and in life), we have periodic retrospectives.  In Scrum, we have a time-boxed Retrospective meeting once each sprint.

Why?  Well, the main reason is to get better without working any harder.  Put another way: mainly to remove impediments.

I hear about far too many Retrospectives where we get to have a lot of fun bitching and moaning. And then the action is none or very weak. ("Ok, I agree to stop blowing my nose when we're having a conference call. Ok.")

Some suggestions:

1. Get more creative about the biggest impediment.  It can be ANYTHING that is really slowing down team velocity. 

As an aside: Velocity is something important, but not everything.  If you're going 90 mph in the wrong direction, you're still going in the wrong direction, for example.

I find it is hard for most teams to put the biggest impediments on the table. 

So, we must challenge ourselves. "If we wanted to double our velocity, what would have to change around here? Let's assume for a moment we could change anything."

2. Pick the biggest impediment.  The Team might swarm around this question for a few moments. If they are not decisive, then the ScrumMaster must be.

What is the main priority? What, if fixed or mitigated, would improve our velocity the most?  OK, then we can add cost-benefit analysis, and say: What, on a bang for the buck basis, will lift velocity the most?

3. Work out a proposal on the biggest one.  Proposal could be business case or action plan, or a few other things.  Basically: either get a good idea how to fix it, or a good idea how to convince the right manager to help fix it.  Maybe help means "give us some $".

I particularly like the Lean A3 approach to kaizen.  (Oh yeah: Removing impediments is basically kaizen.)

4. Fix only one thing at a time.  Don't get several improvements in flight.  Usually.  Too confusing.  Focus and get one over the  goal line.

5. After the Retrospective, the SM must make sure someone is always taking action. Every day.

6. Report back to the team the results from the actions.  (I think teams are generally realistic.)  Who knew the team would actually like to hear about the results.


Do those suggestions help?


Gary Reynolds said...

Totally agree. I'd also add that you need to have fun doing it.

It's very easy for retrospectives to become formulaic and a bit stale and it's down to the Scrum Master to ensure that the ideas for improvement coming out of these meetings are as relevant and creative as possible.

Joe Little said...

Hi Gary,

Agree. And I support you about fun and engagement.

We can use some relative gimmicks to get more engagement. But I prefer the old fashioned stuff...let's make the meeting relevant by taking more action and getting more results. I'm ok to change up the retrospective meeting too.


Gary Reynolds said...

Hi Joe,

Absolutely. Gimmicks can make the process fun, but it's the changes that are made as a direct result of the retrospectives that provide the real sense of achievement.