Continual improvement is at the heart of sustained Agile success. A key improvement tool for teams and leaders is the Retrospective or Retro. But after six months, this becomes difficult and eventually even the strongest teams struggle to get real value from a retro.
We have been developing and trialling some new resources and techniques with five Agile teams so watch this space for more detail on that soon. Meanwhile, here are some tips to help your teams to structure a successful retro...
Keep it balanced!
STOP, START, CONTINUE is a handy and popular template for Agile retrospecting – but take care. Keep it balanced! People will naturally dwell on negative thoughts.
Start with positive items and allocate equal time. If you like the Stop/Start/Continue model then discuss ‘Continue’ first. Try using just 'Continue' and 'Start'.
Don’t raise loads of issues that the team will never be able to address. This demotivates and wastes time.
Limit each person to two sticky notes (their top two observations each time). Ask them to read one out to encourage conciseness and accuracy of thinking. Provide thick pens so they cannot waffle.
Keep it brief!
Stick to allocated time slots and discuss each topic once only.
Invite people to share one observation in turn, starting with their most important one. Ask if anyone has a similar one and cover these as one conversation, saving time whilst indicating that this is a popular topic.
Don’t create extra work ‘typing up’ conversations. Don't document opinions and pipe-dreams. Use this time to agree how you will address the team’s top concerns.
Use square post-it notes and black felt pens to encourage conciseness and to ensure that clear photographs can quickly record the key feedback. Here at IndigoBlue, we prefer 'Super Sticky’ post-it notes and black 'Broad' Berol pens or Sharpies.
Discussing our concerns does in itself have some value – but a lack of action will eventually destroy your good work.
Ask the team to agree ONE thing they want to address and decide WHO is best placed to take it forward... immediately.
We have developed a poster to drive a good retro – it helps to ensure that people bring real and relevant concerns and ideas to the table:
Download the poster here
If you are interested in the other improvement tools we have in trial, please do get in touch with me at email@example.com.