Agile Retrospectives

Continuous Improvement and Short Feedback loops (think: Test Driven Development; Sprint Demo/Review; …) are at the core of any Agile process. Without a structured improvement process it can be difficult for teams to improve and without improvement we stagnate. For methods like Scrum, XP and et al., Retrospectives are that tool.

What is a Retrospective? It is a moment for the team to stop, breathe and take a break from the day to day grind. It’s a chance to step back and reflect on the past iteration. To find things that worked well, things that need improvement and what the team has the energy to improve.

How do Retrospectives differ from Post-mortems (see CIO Update and PragmaticSW)?

  • Post-mortems occur after the project is done (or even dead), when it’s too late to improve that project.
  • Post-mortems are long feedback loops, once per project might mean every 6-18 months.
  • Post-mortems often generate nice reports that are placed on a shelf and ignored (also called write only documentation).
  • Post-mortems sometimes turn into blame and shame events.

Well run retrospectives provide an opportunity for small improvements. The keys to a well run Retrospective:

Retrospective Prime Directive (Norman Kerth): “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.” The key here is to remind participants at the start of every retrospective this is not to blame and shame. It’s about understanding what happened in the course of the last iteration. The focus is on events and not the people.

A clear agenda – a simple one:

  • What happened in the last iteration (including what SMART goals did we achieve?)
  • What would like to be celebrated/remembered/…
  • What areas need improvement?
  • What improvements should we put our energy into for the next two weeks?
  • Clear Ground Rules see: Meeting Ground Rules Updated
  • An Open Mind from all team members with the focus on solutions and not just the problems.
  • Appreciations – just take a few minutes to share something that you really appreciate that someone else on the team did. Interesting twist I just noticed that Ellen Gottesdiener puts appreciations at the beginning of her Retrospective. That’s very interesting, that will help put people in a positive frame of mind and make it easier to tackle the problems later. Elegant.
  • Once you decide what you have the energy to tackle, set SMART Goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, Timely). See: SMART Goal Setting. In the context of an Agile/Scrum team I would always make timely less than two weeks, so that you check back in the next retrospective.
  • A great facilitator who is able to stay out of the conversation and maintain the flow. Bring an outsider in occasionally, just to see a different approach.
  • Mix-up your retrospective activities to maintain the energy and interest:

Follow-up:

  • Post your SMART goals on the team’s Information Radiator and check up on them in the Daily Scrum.
  • If you don’t make the improvements that people choose then Retrospectives will quickly lose their value as people say: “Nothing ever happens from these”.

When: At the end of every iteration or sprint. Allow one hour for every week of iteration. So a 1 week sprint would have 1 hr, 2 weeks a 2 hour retrospective. 3 weeks a 3 hour retrospective, 4 weeks – no one does those anymore right?

Who: The whole team – I like to see (or hear) the Product Owner and the Scrum Master. Some people will tell you that the PO isn’t necessary. Fine, but if they’re not there they can’t help make things better.

Mark Levison
Mark
has over twenty years experience in the IT industry, working as a Developer, Manager, Technical Lead, Architect and Consultant.After ten years of working on and managing waterfall projects he discovered Agile in 2001. Working in a small company he introduced Agile methods one practice at a time. As an employee of Cognos, from 2006 – 2009, he introduced Scrum to the business and coached a number of teams. As part of that process he designed a Test Driven Development adoption strategy and introduced a number of practices to support it. Mark is a Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Coach with Agile Pain Relief Consulting.
LogiGear Staff
LogiGear Corporation provides global solutions for software testing, and offers public and corporate software testing training programs worldwide through LogiGear University. LogiGear is a leader in the integration of test automation, offshore resources and US project management for fast, cost-effective results. Since 1994, LogiGear has worked with Fortune 500 companies to early-stage start-ups in, creating unique solutions to meet their clients’ needs. With facilities in the US and Viet Nam, LogiGear helps companies double their test coverage and improve software quality while reducing testing time and cutting costs.

The Related Post

Agile is a philosophy focused on delivering constant value to customers incrementally and frequently, based on communication and feedback. These two ingredients are vital to a successful Agile recipe. Agile is no longer a buzzword or an unknown territory in the industry. Agile has progressed leaps and bounds the last few years and has matured to ...
I have worked with testers on an Agile team before and it has worked very well for both the team and the customer. In my previous role at Bank of Ireland, testers who had come from a traditional testing background worked within our teams to help ensure we had quality deliverables at the end of ...
SKILLS Agile teams need training! One of the missing links in the implementation of Agile development methods is the lack of training for teams. I noticed in our recent survey on Agile that only 47% of the respondents answered “Yes” that they had been trained in the Agile development process, with over half responding “No.” ...
Our comprehensive issue on Agile, which was set to be released in June, has been moved to early July. We’ve made this decision in order to accommodate an article from one of our industry’s thought leaders. We’re really excited about this piece and we’re sure you will be too! LogiGear Magazine is dedicated to bringing ...
There is a multitude of Agile testing techniques that are quite sophisticated. The DAD process can help guide your process of tailoring decisions. Agile developers are said to be quality infected, and disciplined agilists strive to validate their work to the best of their ability. As a result they are finding ways to bring testing and ...
In the decade since the Agile Manifesto, the movement has encouraged a number of best practices like test-driven development, user-centered design, iterative development, clean code, refactoring, continuous integration, and—arguably—cloud computing. I’m a card-carrying Agile zealot, and to me its benefits are unarguable. Is your IT organization ready to be Agile, seriously? Score yourself on these ...
Mark Levison has over twenty years experience in the IT industry, working as a developer, manager, technical lead, architect, and consultant. He discovered Agile in 2001 and is now a Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Coach with Agile Pain Relief Consulting. Levison has introduced Scrum, Lean and other Agile methods to a number of organizations and coaches from ...
Video narrated by MICHAEL HACKETT – Certified ScrumMaster This is Part One of a Four Part Video on “New Roles for Traditional Testers in Agile Development” Michael shares his thoughts on “A Primer – New Roles for Traditional Testers in Agile” LogiGear Corporation LogiGear Corporation LogiGear Corporation provides global solutions for software testing, and offers ...
Keeping an eye on the horizon in the testing world is an important part of staying in the game. Hans is no stranger to looking to the future with eyes wide and ears open. His expertise is what makes Hans valuable at the STARWEST Expo, which he recently delivered two talks to.
Author Jonathan Rasmusson explains in his latest book how to successfully set-up, execute and deliver Agile projects. Download the excerpt below for “Chapter 7: Estimation The Fine Art of Guessing.” To read his interview in last month’s issue, please click on “Spotlight Interview: Jonathan Rasmusson” to read his views on the best practices for test ...
Video narrated by MICHAEL HACKETT – Certified ScrumMaster This is Part Two of a Four Part Video on “New Roles for Traditional Testers in Agile Development” Michael shares his thoughts on “A Primer – New Roles for Traditional Testers in Agile”  LogiGear Corporation LogiGear Corporation LogiGear Corporation provides global solutions for software testing, and offers ...
Build the right test platform including infrastructure, virtual lab and process. Testing embedded software is both similar and dissimilar to application software testing. The first eye-catching thing is that embedded software is significantly less visible to the end user. User interfaces are limited; there may be a console-based text menu, a simple command line interface, ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay in the loop with the lastest
software testing news

Subscribe