Last week I talked about “Spicing up you retrospective” at the ALE2012. I did a similar talk in June at the ACE!Conference in Krakow. But after the talk in Krakow I had a chat with Bob Marshall and he pointed out that fun isn’t the (only) answer to make retrospectives better. He also pointed me to a blog post were he wrote about these issues. So, the following article is mainly based on his ideas.
For me, there are two main retrospective challenges:
Create a motivating environment and keep the people them engaged
Today I had a lightning talk at the ACE!Conference in Krakow (as you probably know, I’m a lightning talk addict ;)) and talked about seven Agile Myths. You’ll hear about these myths most of the time on management level, but some of them can be found on the development level, too. IMHO it’s important to be aware of these myths to be prepared for possible discussions.
Agile = No documentation
This is one of the most famous myths and I think we have to blame the agile manifesto for this. The line “Working software over comprehensive documentation” is often misunderstood with no documentation at all. But how could agile Frameworks like Scrum survive in highly regulated environments like the medical or financial industry if this would be right. For sure there is documentation, but we don’t waste time on documents that deliver no value to the project.
Have you ever been sitting in a sprint planning and heard the following sentences:
“Can we split this user story and at least start with the GUI?”
“I’m not sure if the hardware will be available on time to integrate this story but we could use an emulator instead.”
“There are no wire frames yet, but we could start with the back-end.”
“The acceptance criteria are still quite vague, but I think I know what the customer needs.”
Does some of these sentences sound familiar? I observed these conversations several times in the past. All of these quotes are based on the same problem: The user story is simply not ready for the next sprint.
Do you know these moments, were you’re between two tasks and don’t have the energy to start with the next one? I know these moments a lot. It’s same when you’re working on a task and you’re stuck. This is the time when a lot of people search for distraction. At least that’s what I did in the past. You open your web browser and start surfing the web, reading your Twitter timeline, checking for mails on your 11 different email accounts or check who is online on Skype. Nowadays it’s easy to get distracted. There are hundreds of ways to waste your costly life time. The main problem is, when you get used to this behavior, your productivity decreases over time. In the end your not able to concentrate on a single task and even get distracted by simple things DURING a task (like e.g. an incoming email or DM on Twitter). You don’t have the energy to start any task (maybe smaller ones). Don’t tolerate this behavior, stop it! Now! Did you hear me? Stop it!
The next time you’re having a break between two tasks, lean back and do….. nothing. Yes, exactly. Just do nothing. Don’t try to fill these breaks with some distracting activities. Try to withstand the impulse to open the browser or anything else to fill this gap. Just sit there (or stand) and wait. After a while the magic will happen: New ideas will come up into your mind. Your mind needs these breaks to get back into creativity mode. This isn’t wasted time, instead it’s one of the most valuable things you can do with it. In my experience the best ideas are created during these mind breaks.
Try it out and tell me your observations and experiences in the comments. I’m already looking forward to read them.