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Agile Retrospectives

Retrospectives Explained by Esther Derby, co-author of Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great.

Effective retrospectives stoke the engine of team improvement. They’re the critical feedback loop for the team to examine methods, engineering practices, teamwork, and organizational relationships.  But too often, teams fall into a rut, or fail to act on their retrospective resolves. Esther will share a five part framework for retrospectives, how the parts fit together, and what happens when you omit one of the stages.

If you have been dissatisfied with your team’s retrospectives, or you are ready to take your retrospectives beyond “what did we do well, what could we do better,” watch this slide show and learn from one of the world’s experts on retrospectives.

About Esther Derby

I consult with you to help you develop a holistic view of your organization and take action to achieve optimum success. I coach you to boost your effectiveness and confidence as a manager, and I deliver workshops that bring insights to life, build skills, and engage your people in learning. 

If you have questions about my services, contact me to schedule a free initial conversation. I'd be delighted to share my thoughts with you and learn about your company. 

Phone:  +1 612.239.1214 


Visit my website to learn more about what I do, browse my blog and sign up for my free email newsletter.

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Agile Retrospectives

  1. 1. Agile Retrospectives <ul><li>Stoke the engine for team improvement. </li></ul><ul><li>esther derby </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  2. 2. Agile Retrospectives are special meetings that take place at the end of a period of work--usually an iteration or software release.
  3. 3. In a retrospective, a team steps back, examines the way they work, analyzes, and identifies ways they can improve.
  4. 4. Agile Retrospectives stoke the engine of team improvement.
  5. 5. But too many retrospectives fail to deliver meaningful (or any) results.
  6. 6. Too often, retrospectives are boring, painful, a waste of time.
  7. 7. Why? <ul><li>lack of... </li></ul><ul><li>focus </li></ul><ul><li>participation </li></ul><ul><li>genuine insight </li></ul><ul><li>buy-in </li></ul><ul><li>follow through </li></ul>
  8. 8. It doesn’t have to be that way.
  9. 9. A flexible framework to improve retrospectives. <ul><li>Set the stage. </li></ul><ul><li>Gather data. </li></ul><ul><li>Generate insights. </li></ul><ul><li>Decide what to do. </li></ul><ul><li>Close the retrospective. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Set the Stage <ul><li>Purpose: </li></ul><ul><li>establish the focus for this retrospective </li></ul><ul><li>share the plan for the meeting </li></ul><ul><li>establish or re-purpose working agreements </li></ul><ul><li>get every voice in the room </li></ul><ul><li>set other concerns aside (for now) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Gather Data <ul><li>Purpose: </li></ul><ul><li>create a shared pool of data </li></ul><ul><li>ground the retrospective in facts, not opinion </li></ul><ul><li>consider objective and subjective experience </li></ul><ul><li>(the focus determines what data is relevant for a particular retrospective) </li></ul>
  12. 12. Generate Insights <ul><li>Purpose: </li></ul><ul><li>understand systemic influences & root causes </li></ul><ul><li>observe patterns </li></ul><ul><li>move beyond habitual thinking </li></ul><ul><li>build shared awareness </li></ul><ul><li>see system effects </li></ul>
  13. 13. Decide What to Do <ul><li>Purpose: </li></ul><ul><li>move from discussion to action </li></ul><ul><li>resolve on one or two actions or experiments </li></ul><ul><li>focus on what the team can accomplish </li></ul><ul><li>ask what the team has energy for, not what is “most important” </li></ul>
  14. 14. Close the Retrospective <ul><li>Purpose: </li></ul><ul><li>reiterate actions and follow-up </li></ul><ul><li>appreciate contributions </li></ul><ul><li>identify ways to make the next retrospective better </li></ul>
  15. 15. Some people worry these steps will take too long.
  16. 16. But leaving out a step undermines the purpose and effectiveness of the retrospective.
  17. 17. Leave out... <ul><li>Set the Stage and you get Brownian Motion . There’s no common focus. </li></ul><ul><li>Gather Data and the retro is ungrounded . Everyone will be working from his own set of facts and opinions. </li></ul><ul><li>Generate Insights and you’ll get habitual thinking. </li></ul><ul><li>Decide What to Do and really, what is the point? </li></ul><ul><li>Close the Retrospective and lose an opportunity to appreciate and improve. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Some (ineffective) retrospectives start in the middle, by asking the group to list what they did well, and what they should do differently.
  19. 19. “ What did we do well?” is a questions that asks about insights, in the absence of data.
  20. 20. “ What should we do differently?” is a questions that asks for a conclusion with neither data nor analysis.
  21. 21. So don’t skip a step, and don’t short change the retro. 1/2 hour is not enough time to get beneath the surface of most problems.
  22. 22. Every retrospective should be unique.
  23. 23. Choose a focus that reflects what’s going on for the team.
  24. 24. Identify what data will help the team sort through that issue.
  25. 25. Select activities that will enable all members of the team to participate, and think, learn, and decide together.
  26. 26. If you always use the same focus and activities, you’ll end up in a rut. Switch it up.
  27. 27. Retrospectives can’t fix everything.
  28. 28. Retrospectives aren’t the place for individual performance feedback.
  29. 29. Retrospectives aren’t the answer for inadequate technical or collaboration skills.
  30. 30. Retrospectives may not correct faulty mental models of software development or of how organizations work.
  31. 31. Some issues require feedback, coaching, training.
  32. 32. Retrospectives do help teams think, learn, and decide together.
  33. 33. Retrospectives make time for teams consider ways to re-design their work and team culture.
  34. 34. Retrospectives help teams improve. Over time, they help good teams become great teams. Over time, they help good teams become great teams.
  35. 35. To learn more: <ul><li>A collection of articles and posts: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>For even more, click “Retrospectives” in the tag cloud. </li></ul>
  36. 36. You can read more about my thoughts on management, leadership, teams, and organizations at . You can also sign up for my newsletter there. @estherderby on Twitter @estherderby on Twitter @estherderby on Twitter @estherderby on Twitter @estherderby on Twitter