30 Nov Retrospectives in Agile
WHAT is Retrospective?
Retrospectives are a great way for teams to take time and reflect regularly on course of actions in their teams, identify the areas which motivates them, things they feel good about, bring up issues (big or small) to discuss with others and keep getting better.
Retrospective is 12th point of Agile Principles which helps in making teams more effective by reflection.
It starts as a practice and gradually evolves as a value system for the team.
WHY to do it?
Software is an ever evolving field, where things change at a very fast rate, and so does our course of actions.
A methodology/process which works in one team for a situation may not be effective or applicable to other teams or situations. Priorities, expectations, people, culture; all keep changing.
To cope with this rapid evolution and keep up deliveries, its important for teams to reflect and find ideas to get better. Identify and overcome obstacles and maintain a healthy and productive environment.
HOW to do it?
During a retrospective, the entire team usually gets together in a room with a facilitator, which can be from the same team, or some other team as well. In any agile team or a Scrum, usually a Scrum Master facilitates the retro.
He draws 3 columns on a white board and labels them as “START, STOP & CONTINUE” respectively. Some also label columns as “GLAD, SAD, MAD”… or some other conventions. There’s no hard coded rule for it. It largely depends on the team’s choice.
CONTINUE, are the activities which teams love to keep doing. These are beneficial to the team’s productivity and help the team morale.
START are the activities which the team thinks they should start doing in order to boost productivity further.
STOP are usually those activities which are impediments to productivity and must be stopped immediately.
The facilitator shares post-its (sticky notes) and pens with all participants.
The team is given around 5 minutes (retros must be time bound) to analyze points or issues that it faced since the last retrospective, write them down in post-its and classify them under START, STOP and CONTINUE categories.
After everyone sticks these post-its in their respective categories on white board, the facilitator reads through them all and clubs together ones that are repeating. Quite often, we end up with a few broad themes under which similar / repetitive activities are clubbed together.
He then reads them all for the team one by one so everybody becomes aware of all the points listed down.
The entire team then discusses these points and comes up with solutions for every issue. For each point, an action item is listed and an owner is assigned who will take responsibility to address that concern.
The facilitator also usually gets some chocolates or munchies for this exercise. I know that’s my favourite part…
WHEN to do it?
Retrospectives are done usually every two weeks in big teams and smaller teams prefer to do it every month. The date and time is decided well in advance, and facilitator sends calendar invitation to all and books space for it. He also reminds the team a day before, so that they can think and come prepared with their points.
Below are the slides that I prepared for my team retrospective.