Effective retrospectives

As time goes by, one key observation from team retrospectives is – the core issues do not seem to surface during retrospectives. Most of the issues are superficial or “it was all the the other teams fault”.

Two key reasons for this lack of insight seems to be …

* Lack of data or not using the data from the just concluded iteration/sprint
* Do not remember important events from the just concluded iteration/sprint

So it’s important for the facilitator to guide the team to get to these insights. Here are some techniques to try…

Iteration/Sprint time-line

* Create a time line on the board for the just concluded iteration/sprint
* Ask the team to remember events that happened from the beginning of iteration/sprint and post them on the time line.

Burndown chart

* Bring up the burndown chart for the recently concluded iteration/sprint
* Ask the team on reflect on the ups and downs of the graph

This should help the team to reflect more deeply on what truly occurred during the iteration/sprint. Once the team has those insights and have voted on key items (if there are too many), try root cause analysis. This almost always help identifying dealing with the real problem rather than a symptom(s) of a problem.


Recovering programmer, Agile software developer & coach

Posted in Agile Tagged with: ,
4 comments on “Effective retrospectives
  1. Lakshmi says:

    Hi Vinod
    I am quite new to Agile and was reading up your blog after attending the last PM Footprints. From this post, I started to wonder if actually over time we are ending up doing more documentation? may not be in the form of formal documents, but posts??? Can you please share your thoughts?


    • vinod vinod says:

      Hi Lakshmi

      Nice to hear from you. When you say documentation, are you referring to the points the team has raised during the retrospective? Or the action item list?

      The teams I work with; typically, just have one page poster (or an “improvement theme” poster) that highlights the key action items that the team is planning to try in the upcoming sprint. That’s it. Nothing else. (For some projects, we do store these posters so we can do a release level retrospective and these posters become an important milestones to look back and reflect upon). We get rid of all the post it’s etc.

      Hope this helps. If not, let me know.


  2. Shishir says:

    one thing that has been proposed is having a Retrospective “Parking Lot”. A section on the wall is cordoned off for the team members to put up stickies as a reminder, so that they get it out of their mind and into the public. That also gets the other team members thinking. Not seen a lot of stickies on the Parking Lot since it has been put up though 😉

    • vinod vinod says:

      We ran into similar lack of response when we tried the “Parking lot” idea a while back. However, in recent time the teams have been using a 5S list, which does seem to always have something on it. Not sure what changed. My guess is as the teams realize the nuances, they adopt things.

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