Agile Retrospectives: how to improve the meetings and the resultsI'll discuss in a couple of blogposts that I read recently in the book that I reference below, regarding how to improve the retrospective meetings.
What is a retrospective meeting?In everyone's life, a retrospection is when someone stops and thinks about his/her life, evaluating good experiences, bad experiences and checking if he or she has learnt from those experiences in order to be a better person in society.
This, which most people do, in the agile methodologies of software development is called 'retrospective' and it is very useful in iterative development methods, to evaluate the progress made in every iteration. In this case we'll focus on SCRUM most of the time, but a retrospective can be applied to other Agile Methodologies.
Steps of a retrospectiveA well-designed retrospective meeting should have the following steps:
- Set the stage.
- Gather data.
- Generate insights.
- Decide what to do.
- Close the retrospective meeting.
Who leads a retrospectiveA retrospective meeting can be led by the manager or by any member of the team, or even this role can be assumed by a different person each time the meeting takes place. The person who leads the meeting mustn't participate in the discussions that will arise during the meeting, because his/her position biases the rest of the people's opinion.
In addition to this, it is very important to analize which parameters must be taken into account in a retrospective meeting. Some examples are:
- · Find ways to improve the practices.
- · Discover what we were doing well.
- · Understand reasons behind missed targets.
- · Find ways to improve our responsiveness to customers.
- · Rebuild damaged relationships.
- Avoid blaming someone for an objective that wasn't achieved.
- Try to make everyone participate in the meeting.
How long should it takeIt depends.
It depends on the length of the iteration, on the complexity of the technology used in it, on the team's size, and the level of conflict that arise during the meeting. As a footprint: one week of iteration equals one hour of retrospective meeting. Anyway, there is no point in shortening or extending the meeting more than necessary.
On the other hand, the retrospective meeting must be prepared previously. The team must enter the meeting room with something prepared, at least some draft notes, and must be well informed about the issues to discuss.
How to prepare the retrospectivesThe person responsible for the meeting must answer the following questions:
- · What is the goal?
- · Who will attend?
- · How long will it take?
- · Where will it take place?
- · How will the room be set up?
How to convince the people to prepare the meetingThe leader can send a short quiz by mail to every person that will assist to the retrospective meeting. Thus everyone will have to take a couple of minutes to think about the last iteration. After receiving everyone's answers, which will be kept anonymous, the results may be read aloud during the meeting, so that they may be interpreted as a summary of the team's insights.
What to do after the meetingTry to make someone responsible for every action that has been decided during the meeting. Lots of retrospectives fail because, despite giving good insights and making good decisions, everything is missed because nobody takes care of those decisions. So, assign responsibilites and make commitments about those actions to be carried out.
And in the next article...... I opportunely made a workaround to avoid explaining in detail the steps of a retrospective meeting. I wanted to set the ideas and give some advice. In the next article I'll explain each phase.
Furthermore, I'll explain a list of activities that can be done in a retrospective meeting to promote the participation of every member of the team. This is the first objective of a retrospective meeting and the most important one.
Esther Derby & Diana Larsen