Slow DownTo Speed Up: Retrospectives To Improve Product & Process (Gottesdiener-EBG Consulting)


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(slides and handout from PMI Personal Development Day, May 2010)

Project retrospectives go beyond classic “lessons learned”. Retrospectives are one the best ways to improve your project results and build a healthy project community.

Retrospective facilitator and agile coach Ellen Gottesdiener explain the why’s, what’s and how’s of conducting milestone, iteration and end-of-project retrospectives to elicit and leverage the project community’s collective wisdom, define and sustain good practices, avoid faulty decisions, and adapt for success.

• The value proposition: retrospective benefits and characteristics
• Who should be involved, and how to involved them
• Essential steps for planning and conducting effective retrospectives
• Key questions to answer, ways to address “safety”, and sample retrospective activities

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Slow DownTo Speed Up: Retrospectives To Improve Product & Process (Gottesdiener-EBG Consulting)

  1. 1. Slow Down to Speed Up: Retrospectives for Improving Product and Process Ellen Gottesdiener © EBG Consulting, 2010
  2. 2. Ellen Gottesdiener Founder & Principal Consultant, EBG Consulting Facilitator, trainer, facilitator, mentor, agile coach, conference advisor Years of varied project and product experience Certified Professional Facilitator, Certified Scrum Master Expert Reviewer, contributor to IIBA BABOK® (Business Analysis Body of Knowledge®) Author: articles, books eNewsletter: Success with Requirements free - sign up at
  3. 3. what why activities q&a when successful simulation retros
  4. 4. what
  5. 5. rituals
  6. 6. A ritual in which the project community: reviews the iteration/release/project story, harvests the collective wisdom of the team, tells the truth without blame or judgment, identifies what to appreciate and improve, understands and forgives its failings, and relishes in its successes. retrospective
  7. 7. The insights gained from retrospectives are the basis for starting again
  8. 8. postmortem?
  9. 9. retrospective
  10. 10. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. The part is more than a fraction of the whole. Aristotle
  11. 11. when
  12. 12. end
  13. 13. interim: heartbeat
  14. 14. interim: work chunk
  15. 15. interim: custom
  16. 16. five key questions
  17. 17. 1. What did we do well that we might forget to do next time if we don’t discuss it? 2. What did we learn? 3. What should we do differently next time? 4. What still puzzles us? 5. What needs more discussion?
  18. 18. why
  19. 19. see the whole
  20. 20. transparency
  21. 21. adaptive learning
  22. 22. closure
  23. 23. participation works
  24. 24. successful retrospectives
  25. 25. planning
  26. 26. community involvement
  27. 27. use data
  28. 28. feelings count
  29. 29. build in safety
  30. 30. structure
  31. 31. 1. Readying - Set the Stage 2. Past - Gather Data 3. Present - Generate Insights 4. Future - Decide What To Do 5. Retrospect - Close the Retrospective
  32. 32. basis for change
  33. 33. the prime directive
  34. 34. “Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.” - Norm Kerth
  35. 35. activities
  36. 36. real-time slide show from actual retrospectives
  37. 37. 1. get ready - set the stage define success create safety
  38. 38. 2. past - gather data artifact contest project timeline
  39. 39. 3. present - generate insights deep inquiry identify themes
  40. 40. 4. future - decide what to do change the paper retro planning game
  41. 41. 5. retrospect - close the retrospective celebration card temperature readings
  42. 42. simulation
  43. 43. email more retros about EBG © EBG Consulting, 2010
  44. 44.   Retrospectives        EBG’s Retro  “Retrospectives: Harvesting the Wisdom of Teams”  Online   Readings    “Team Retrospectives—For Better Iteration Assessment”  “What’s Going Right Around Here? Using AI to Improve Your Agile Requirements  Process”  EBG’s Agile  Solutions Matrix with EBG retrospective‐specific offerings  Solutions   EBG’s Retro   Collaborating for Success: Facilitation Skills for Agile Teams Training  Project Retrospectives and Team Reviews   EBG’s  Register for our free monthly eNewsletter, “Success with Requirements”   eNewsletter  “Success with Requirements” archive issues What is a  A ritual in which the project community:  retrospective?  reviews the iteration/release/project story     harvests the collective wisdom of the team  tells the truth without blame or judgment  identifies what to appreciate and improve  understands and forgives its failings, and relishes in its successes.   The insights gained from retrospectives are the basis for starting again.  Business  Retrospectives: your team’s best (and least expensive way) to learn.  Value  You Have to  Adults are pragmatic learners ‐‐ we learn best in supportive environments with our  Slow Down to  own experiences (e.g. act   reflect   integrate).  Speed Up  It is much easier to identify another’s foolishness than to recognize one’s own. This is  the Law of Wisdom Acquisition.  Humans need rituals to do this.     Retrospectives are not the classic “lessons learned”. They focus on the big picture  learning, address the “tough stuff” that really make projects successful, and generate  actions for change.    Five Key  1. What did we do well, that we might forget to do next time, if we don’t discuss  it?  Questions  2. What did we learn?  (adapted from  3. What should we do differently next time?  Norm Kerth*)  4. What still puzzles us?  5. What needs more discussion?  Kerth’s Prime  “Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did  Directive  the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the  resources available, and the situation at hand.”  Retrospectives 1 Copyright © EBG Consulting, 2010
  45. 45. When do  Interim Retrospectives provide the greatest payback. Types:  Retros?  • “Heartbeat”: time‐based, e.g. weekly, bi‐weekly, monthly iterations  • “Work Chunk”: milestone‐based    • “Custom”: (surprise) event based, e.g. new technology, merger, disaster  End‐of‐project retrospectives are for the entire project.   Structure  Readying: collect data, establish tone, begin to create safety  for a  Past: recreate the story, review significant events, answer the five questions  Retro‐ Present: assess our progress, review project data, reflect on facts and feelings   spective  Future: correct issues, improve process and products, sustain good practices,  recommend  changes and improvements, shift the culture   Retrospect: reflect on how the retrospective process worked, identify process adjustments  Derby, Esther, and Diana Larsen. Agile Retrospective: Making Good Teams Great. 2006. Pragmatic  Books  Bookshelf.    Kerth, Norman. Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews. 2001. Dorset House  Publishing Company.  Birk, Andreas, Torgeir Dingsoyr, and Tor Stalhane, “Postmortem: Never Leave a Project without It”,  Articles  IEEE Software, Vol. 19, No. 3, May/June 2002, pp. 43‐45.   and Papers  Collier, Bonnie, Tom Demarco, and Peter Fearly, “A Defined Process for Project Postmortem Review,     Bonnie Collier, Tom Demarco, and, IEEE Software, July 1996, pp 65‐71.  Congdon, Gloria H. “Techniques and Recommendations For Implementing Valuable Postmortems in  Software Development Projects”, Masters Thesis, 72 pages and Appendices, University of Minnesota,  May 1999.   Desouza, Kevin, Torgeir Dingsoyr and Yukiki Awaza, “Experiences with Conducting Project  Postmortems: Reports vs. Stories and Practitioner Perspective”, Proceeding of the 38th Hawaii  International Conference on System Sciences, Jan. 2005.   Glass, Robert, “Project Retrospectives and Why They Never Happen”, IEEE Software,  September/October 2002, pp. 111‐112.   Gottesdiener, Ellen, “Team Retrospectives‐for Better Iteration Assessment”, The Rational Edge, April,  2003.    Kerth, Norman, “The Ritual of Retrospectives, Norman L. Kerth, Software Testing and Quality  Engineering (now Better Software), September/October 2000.  Larsen, Diana, “Embracing Change: A Retrospective”, Cutter IT Journal, Vol. 16, No 2, 2003.  McGregor, Jena, “Gospels of Failure”, Fast Company, Issue 91, February 2005, p. 62., (A review of the three high profile post mortem  reports: NASA’s Challenger, NY Time’s Jayson Blair, and the 9/11 Commission Report).  Raelin, Joseph A., “Public Reflection as the Basis of Learning”, Management Learning, Vol. 32(1), 2001,  pp 11‐30.   Rising, Linda and Esther Derby, “Singing the Songs of Project Experiences: Patterns and  Retrospectives”, Linda Rising and Esther Derby, Cutter IT Journal, Vol. 16, No 9, September 2003.   Rizzuto, Janis, “Happy Endings”, Projects@Work, November/December 2002, pp 29‐30.   Websites  (Retrospective Facilitators Discussion List) / (scenes from some of the annual gatherings). agile retrospective wiki   Retrospectives 2 Copyright © EBG Consulting, 2010