September 12, 2018

Reflections on Retrospectives

Sometimes retrospectives fall into the realm of time wasting rituals. Join me as I take a look at how we can get things back on track again.

Reflections on Retrospectives

Retrospectives. We all do them at the end of every sprint with the intention to improve and become better as team. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the last few weeks to see we can do to become better and more efficient.

At my current gig, I have been feeling that we aren't getting to much value from our retros. Taking a step back and looking at it, I tried to what we could do to get things back on track again.

What Would We Do Differently?

A set of questions that is commonly asked during a retrospective go along the following lines:

  • What worked?
  • What didn't work?
  • What would we do differently?

In our team, we would often find ourselves starting to run out of time which left us scrambling in the last 5 minutes of the meeting to cook up some half-baked actions. Now you could just say that we could extend the time, but I feel that the time that is allocated is sufficient, which lead me to the following two things that we could do differently :

1. Better Time Management
We need to manage our time really well. As a team we need to keep each other in check and be aware of when we are steering off course on a discussion.

2. Start with the meaty stuff first
What I mean by this is that typically the discussions about what we need to change/do are left until the very end and land up being rushed. If we were to invert this and start with those items first, it would ensure that we will have done them even if we do run out of time.

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Another semi-common thing that I have seen crop up is that when we identify issues, we sometimes try to fix the symptoms of the problem, as opposed to the root cause. If you don't fix the root cause, the issue is bound to crop up again. In order to assist with this, you can use the 5 Why's Technique as a starting point, but you just need to be aware of the following:

A problem may have multiple root causes that need to be identified.

Make It Measurable

I recently blogged about this very topic and it is a very useful mechanism to check your retro items against to make sure that they are some fluffy, nebulous goals.

If you can't measure it, you can't improve it!

If you take a step back and look at this, you will see that it is obvious. I mean, how can you even know if you have reached your end if there is no finish line?

Good Reflections

Don't get me wrong. I think that retrospectives are vital and one of the most important parts of agile. It is what makes us better and more efficient. I just think that we sometimes just need to take a step back and look at ourselves in the mirror.

Until next time...keep learning!