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Highlighting indivuduals in retrospective meetings

Last post 05:03 am October 2, 2017 by azhar osman
8 replies
05:39 am September 27, 2017

I have observed in my teams that mistakes of individuals are highlighted in retrospective meetings e.g Mr X has done this thing bad in sprint, Mr Y has done this thing wrong. While writing points  in retrospective document , they write a generic statement not highlighting individuals but during the meeting they criticize and appreciate each other.

Is it ok for a team to do this i.e. individual criticism and appreciation during retro?

I studied scrum guide for my answer but could not find an answer.

06:13 am September 27, 2017

Is any criticism received and acted upon constructively, and does the Sprint Retrospective - as it is presently conducted - help the team to improve?

What purpose does the "retrospective document" serve? Who uses it and for what purpose? 

01:21 pm September 27, 2017

Ian, as per my observations, yes criticism received is acted upon constructively and it help the team to improve.

What purpose does the "retrospective document"

Three points are documented in this document by team and is used by the team in next retro and during sprint as well for the improvements that were discussed in meeting.

Our retro document contains

-What should we keep doing (What went well during the sprint)

-What should we stop doing (What went wrong during the sprint)

-What should we start doing (What should we start for further improvements)

01:56 pm September 27, 2017

Ian, as per my observations, yes criticism received is acted upon constructively and it help the team to improve.

In that case, the current practice of "naming names" is fine.

There is a convention known as the Prime Directive, which although not part of the Scrum Framework, is commonly asserted by teams at the beginning of a Sprint Retrospective: 

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

Opinions on the value and appropriateness of the Prime Directive are mixed, but note that even when it is observed, there is nothing in its substance which would stop individuals from being named. What matters is that criticism is made constructively, and received and acted on in that spirit.

04:09 am September 28, 2017

Thanks Ian, I have just studied "Prime directive".


03:47 am September 29, 2017

Criticising with names in public, even 'constructively' and in a small public, is not a good management practice. Are people really fine with it or they just behave like they are fine?

The way I prefer is to list the wrong doings as lessons learned, transforming them into general rules. If some people stand up and say I did that stupid thing, that's great and you know he is really fine and open to the suggestion. If no one does that, it's fine as they are now the team level rules so nobody should make the mistake again.

05:18 am September 29, 2017

Thanks Will Nui.

12:33 pm September 29, 2017

I feel it is appropriate to highlight individual mistakes under certain conditions:

a) The team takes the same approach with individual achievements. If you only highlight mistakes, but not achievements, it is not criticism, it is a blame session;

b) The team only does it when calling out a team member who violated an existing Working Agreement. This is necessary because the team must hold each other accountable for violations of such agreements. Any other perceived individual failures are more likely to be a failure of the system and should be subject to root cause analysis;

c) The criticism, as Ian said, is constructive

If these conditions are met. I believe it is possible and healthy to do so. However, under no circumstances should any of these individual mistakes be communicated to anyone outside the Scrum Team. The Scrum Team stands as one and is accountable as one.

05:03 am October 2, 2017

Thanks Julian Bayer, I agree to all of your points.

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