Last week I talked at the ALE Bathtub conference about the evolution of retrospectives. Fortunately, the talk was taped so that I can share it with you. I hope you’ll like it. I’m already looking forward to your comments.
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
- Work on the identified items
On first sight it seems that these two challenges may be caused by:
Repetition –> Boring Retros
Same problems –> No effect
Tasks are not visible
Tasks are too big
But these are only the things you see on the surface, if you dig deeper you’ll find the real root causes.
IMHO, the main root cause is a missing purpose. Any retrospective without a purpose is a complete waste of time. (the same applies for any other meeting). It doesn’t make sense to change your retrospectives regularly and introduce new ideas as long as there is no purpose behind. But how can you inject purpose into your retrospectives? The answer is: by using hypotheses. To do so I adapted the original retrospective flow by Diana Larsen and Esther Derby the following way: (more…)
Last week I spoke at my favorite agile conference of the year in Krakow, Poland: The ACE!Conference. If you haven’t been there yet, you have to be there next year. I’m quite sure it will be even better than this year. I talked about my hobbyhorse: Retrospectives. Here is the video of the talk I gave:
And here are the slides of the talk:
I’m looking forward to your comments.
It’s about time for a new list. Today, I decided to write a list on how to mess up your retrospective. There are a lot of possibilities to do this and the following tips will help you doing so
1 – don’t prepare anything
As the retrospective is the simplest and least important meeting of all Scrum meetings, it doesn’t need any preparation. Just come together and start. Wait, where are the pens and the post-its? Forget about it! Just sit together and chat a bit.
2 – Start immediately
As there is no need to set the stage, start immediately with gathering data. Immediately start the retrospective with asking the two questions: “What went wrong?” and “What went well”. That should be sufficient to get great results.
3 – Don’t check if the tasks of the last Retro were done
We don’t care about the old crap from the last retrospective. If it was important enough, it will make it again to our retrospective results. And again, and again, and again, and again….
4 – don’t use post its
Post Its are evil! Endless trees have to die to create this evildoing. You have silent and introvert people in your team? Then maybe it is time for them to learn to speak up. It also helps to reduce all of this retrospective waste, with all of these things that can’t be solved anyway.
5 – Forget about the Insight
Insight? Isn’t it clear why you failed in your last sprint? Maybe you should also skip the “Gather data” step and instantly start to “Decide what to do”.
6 – No DUE date
Due dates are for waterfallers. As we’re working in an agile environment, we don’t need any due dates.
7 – no responsible
Repeat after me: “We’re no waterfallers”. A responsible person is a concept from the stone age. We as a team will make sure that the task will be done.
8 – No time box
This whole concept of a time box is exhausting, isn’t it? Can’t we just skip it for the retrospective? Just sit together and talk and for sure we will have something valuable in the ehh, when it is over, eventually…
9 – try to solve everything
You collected a big list of issues? Then you should try to solve all of them. It can’t be that you ignore some of the problems of the last sprint. Define a task for each identified impediment or problem and solve it in the next sprint.
10 – Always use the same scheme
Always ask the same questions and do the same exercises in all of your retrospectives. This will create a comfy environment for your team and you ensure that you’ll always have a energized and creative team. Your retrospective results will be awesome. Ignore all of this fancy new methods to facilitate a retrospective. This is all new age shit.
I’m looking forward to your experiences, when trying these things out. Please leave a comment
More and more agile teams have the problem, that they are not collocated. If you work in a distributed team, you know how difficult it is to stay in contact. It gets even worse, when you have a big time shift between the teams. But in such situations it is even more important to do a team wide retrospective. That’s why I created a checklist for retrospectives in distributed teams. I believe that most of the points also apply to other meetings, like e.g the Sprint Review in Scrum. To facilitate a successful distributed retrospective you need the following:
It is very difficult to facilitate two teams, if one of the teams is located 1000km away. It don’t has to be a experienced coach, just somebody who prepares everything off-site and helps facilitating the retrospective.
As I suggest to use an online tool for your retrospective, every team member should have access to a laptop. At least two team members should have one laptop to create their virtual post-its.
Every team needs a beamer, so that you can show what is happening on the wall.
Make sure that every laptop has network access. If you’re lucky a WLAN is in place, if not you need a switch and enough network cables.
If available use a video conference system. In my experience it is very important, that everybody can see each other. A face speaks more than a thousand words.
As you won’t be able to use a physical cardboard, you need one online. There are several tools out there:
I use corkboard.me as it was updating the screens of the other participants very fast. It is also quite important, that you don’t need to create an account to use the tool. Thanks to Nils Wloka, Pawel Wrzeszcz, Barry O’Reilly, Angeline Tan and Katrin Elster for helping me to collect this list.
Prepare the Online Cardboard
As you would prepare a normal whiteboard or cork board, you also have to prepare your online cardboard. Make sure to search for a nice picture which presents the theme for the upcoming retrospective and that you put the agenda online.
More time for preparation
As you also have to care for the technical stuff and need some time to try if everything is working, the preparation time increases. That’s why it is important to plan for some additional preparation time.
If you have all these things in place, there is no real difference to a normal retrospective. You can use nearly all retrospective tools, that are out there. And don’t forget the different phases of every successful retrospective.
Even though a retrospective with a distributed team can work out great, the team should meet in real on a regular basis. If possible the whole team should meet in real every second retrospective. I know that won’t be possible anytime, but it is worth trying. As Jutta Eckstein says: “You will pay for it anyway”. Either you pay for the flights or for less productivity.