March 18, 2022

Following Through After a Sprint Retrospective

The previous Scrum Guide version contained language about how improvement ideas that have been identified, for example during a Sprint Retrospective, are handled in the subsequent Sprint.  It said:

To ensure continuous improvement, it includes at least one high priority way in which the team works, identified in the previous Retrospective meeting.

Several areas in the latest Scrum Guide version were made less prescriptive and the language above was one of them. It was entirely removed. The idea behind it is however an important one, regardless if the sentence is in the guide or not. Scrum is a empirical process framework and that should trigger a constant thirst for process improvement for Scrum teams. The earlier version of the Scrum Guide said what to do with an improvement item, not how to tackle it. In the newest version neither what nor how are covered. Being less prescriptive is of course the strength of the framework and makes it universally applicable, leaving it up to the practitioner to identify a tool or technique to handle it.  A Scrum practitioners like yourself might ask, what are actually good ways of handling improvement ideas?  Is there something that can help me work in these improvements?

Agile Kata

The answer is yes. Welcome to Agile Kata.

Originating in martial arts, a Kata involves deliberate, repetitive practice to master a form. In business the pattern of a Kata is foundational for continuous improvement. By implementing Kata, an organization can build new habits and skills to shift a corporate culture.  On a smaller scale, an Agile Kata can also help teams to implement change either in their team, departments or resolve an impediment across an entire organization.  Regardless of the change initiative, the pattern stays the same:

  1. Get the Direction
  2. Grasp the Current Condition
  3. Establish the Next Target Condition
  4. Conduct Experiments to get there

Have you ever been in a situation, let’s say as a Scrum Master, where someone asks you about measurable improvement since the starting with Scrum in your team or organization?  Could you give a clear answer? Maybe not. Believe me, you are not alone. A Kata is different because in particular steps 2 and 3 measure the current condition and plans for a measurable targets. Over time, real evidence of improvement becomes a habit. The Agile Kata extends the core by adding agile characteristics to the pattern above. Those are for example self-managed teams, servant leadership, empiricism, group collaboration etc.

Next time your Sprint Retrospective results trigger change, maybe you want to try an Agile Kata and see how this pattern can be a parallel process to your regular Sprint rhythm. Version 2.0 of the Agile Kata will actually demonstrate a much bigger field of application than the previous version the Agile Kata, which was more focused on transformations in general. Starting is easy, because you can use the Agile Starter Kata to kick off big organizational change that might have started as a small idea in your Sprint Retrospective.