Saturday, July 04, 2009

Improving Retrospectives

For years I've done the classic retrospective at the end of each sprint, asking the team "What worked? What didn't work?" or "More of? Less of? Start? Stop?" But I tried some new techniques recently, and the response was much better.
Most importantly, I used several ideas listed and described in Agile Retrospectives. To start, I asked the team members to choose one of four categories to represent how they felt about being there. This helped to focus and confirm what they hoped to get out of the meeting. I then clarified our values, updating our team agreement with this key, guiding information. The last thing I did was have each of the team members write down 5 idea for improving our scrum. After collecting their papers, I wrote them down on the wall and had the team come up and cast four votes per team member (we had about 20+ ideas).
Throughout the rest of the week of sprint planning, their clarified values and top ideas/problem solutions were referred to again and again, and really helped to shape and guide how the user stories and acceptance criteria were crafted, as well as how the tasks were broken out.
You can also use the "What worked/didn't work" at the end of any recurring meeting in order to improve it the next time.
I highly recommend Larsen's book. The return on investment for improving your retrospectives is significant.

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