Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Agile retrospection FAQ - What, When and How?

What is retrospective?
Retrospective is a key ceremony in SCRUM which enables the team to follow the practice of “inspect and adapt”. The team comes together after the completion of Sprint to brainstorm and identify areas of improvement. The focus of retrospective is more on “how” the team delivered results rather than the results.
A quick search on Google tells us that the meaning of retrospective as “Looking back on, contemplating, or directed to the past”.  But from an agile team perspective, the definition won’t suffice. So let's make a slight change to that definition -“Looking back on, contemplating, or directed to the past with the intention of improving the future”.  The objective here is on improving the future without which the goal of retrospective is not achieved.
Now we know why we should do a retrospective. But when should we do retrospectives?
SCRUM suggests retrospectives at the end of each sprint. It is important and practical considering that it is a logical milestone. But retrospective is an exercise to help you build an efficient, agile team. So whenever there is a nagging problem for the team, we would call for a retrospective even if you are in the middle of a sprint. 
How should we conduct an agile retrospect?
The book “Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great” by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen” has become a de facto standard on how to do retrospection. The book suggests following structure and approximate percentage of time you should be spending for each stage.
·         Set the stage    5%
·         Gather Data     30-50%
·         Generate insights 20%- 30%
·         Decide what to do  15%-20%
·         Close the retrospective 10%
·         Shuffle time 10-15%

The book covers various activities that can be conducted in each stage of the retrospective.  Based on your need, you should be able select and refine the activities for your retrospection. Here is my recommendation
Set the stage
- Welcoming the team.
- Set the context – Emphasis on the focus on improving the future.
- Rules for the session - setting rule like "discussion on impediments, not on who created the    impediments". 
Gather Data
-   Walk through Time VS Activity chart for the sprint, Burn down charts, Road blocks list (resolved and unresolved), Velocity and Happiness meter
- Use the data to list down what went well, What need to improve,  What we should stop doing and what should we start doing?  - Avoid assumptions.
Generate insights
- Prioritize outcome of gather data - Use tools like Pareto, Dot voting
- Generate insights by using tools like 5 Whys, Fish bone exercise to identify root cause
- Define action items to fix the root cause.
Decide what to do
- Translate outputs from action items to SMART goals.
Close the retrospective
- Health check on how we are running the retrospective
- Thank the team members for their time and inputs.


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