April 28, 2020

New Retrospectives

A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful conversation with Diana Larsen on Agile FM, and it did not come as a surprise, that the topic of retrospectives came up. Diana is the co-author of the book Agile Retrospectives , which has been very influential in many agile careers, including mine. 

Of course there were other useful books out there about retrospectives and post-mortem's in general, but Agile Retrospectives was the first of its kind that tackled this topic towards agile teams.  I especially like the structure of the book and that the reader (facilitator) needs to think about how to organize their own implementation of it. For example, the book provides great guidance to become a successful agile retrospective facilitator, but intentionally does not try to offer cookie cutter templates. That is key, because if it was, retrospectives would easily get repetitive, robotic and boring. The book tries to prevent this in a very elegant way, and I myself use the 4-step (sometimes 5-step) outline to organize my own retrospectives pretty much all the time when working with teams:

  1. Setting the Stage
  2. Gathering Data
  3. Gaining Insights
  4. Building Actions

Right after my podcast recording I thought about all the little detours and nuances I made to my retrospectives over the years. Of course there was a lot of learnings and reflections on the facilitation itself and the use of techniques. Some things went very well, others needed a bit refining and of course there were a few that were removed from the repertoire. Kudos to all the agile coaches and Scrum Masters out there that try to change things up every single retrospective. On the other side of the spectrum are the facilitators that are using the same technique over and over again. 

The step Setting the Stage makes you aware of exactly that. Many teams have a retrospective scheduled every two weeks for 60 minutes. But who says that's the problem, obstacle, issue etc is exactly 60 minutes big? Some teams just meet in the same room, using the same configuration with a few markers and post-it's on the table. But who says that these are the best tools and material to go after the goal of the retrospective? Setting the Stage does not only set the tone for the actual retrospective, but also for the facilitator preparing for it.

I purposely used the word retrospective throughout the text and not Sprint Retrospective as retrospectives techniques could also be applied to release retrospectives or retrospectives during an agile transformation. The structure is the same, but the timing is different.

If you are interested in learning about using techniques that follows the 4-step program register to this live virtual session. In addition, I will also show how you could create your own future retrospective techniques. 


If you are interested in a recent 5-Minute Scrum Poster Walkthrough, you might like this YouTube video below that shows the Sprint Retrospective being part of the process framework.