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Demystifying Agile: Rants of a Madman – Retrospectives

July 3, 2012

Back in March I posted the second of my Rants of a Madman series and introduced the concept of having retrospectives at the end of each iteration.  If you haven’t read that post, or just don’t remember it, I’d suggest that you do so now.

That’s okay, I’ll wait.  I’ve got no place I need to be right at the moment.

Really…  Go read it…  Please…

So, here it is July and I have to ask:  Did you do it?  Did your Agile Team actually hold retrospectives at the end of each iteration?  I made you a promise then that I’ll repeat now:

“Six months from now after you have 8 iterations and retrospectives behind you you’ll be amazed by the 8 to 16 changes you’ve made; fast forward a year after having 17 iterations and retrospectives behind you and you’ll be absolutely floored by the 16 to 32 changes you’ve made and their positive impact on both your team and your own personal psyche. Again, just trust me…”

We are four months in to this and your Agile Team should have 6 iterations under your belt by now.  That should mean that your team has held 6 retrospectives and has selected 6 to 12 actionable changes to help ratchet things up.  I warned you not to try to boil the ocean by picking too many things to fix and strongly recommended that you choose only 1 to 2 things from these retrospectives to act on in your next iterations.

Time for a short pop quiz:  So, how did it go?  Please classify your Agile Team in to one of these categories:

  • Overachievers:  1 to 2 things per iteration to improve upon?  Surely you jest!  We found at least 3 things per iteration, created action plans for each, and we can walk you through 18 or more process improvements since your post on this topic!
  • Achievers:  We chose 1 to 2 things per iteration as you suggested, created action plans for each, and can share with you and other teams the 6 to 12 things we are doing differently to be a better performing team than we were doing back in February.
  • Hopefuls:  We chose the 1 to 2 things, but really never acted on too many of them.  We were too busy doing other things to actually improve ourselves.  We enjoyed the retrospectives, but we seem to enjoy doing the same things poorly even more.  Thanks for the reminder though and we’ll try to do better from now on.
  • Embarrassed:  Dang.  We didn’t bother to hold retrospectives or identify any ways in which we could improve our iterations.  Other teams have had how many improvements in just six weeks?  Perhaps we should give it a try.  We may not catch up, but we don’t want to be left at the starting line either.
  • Sleeping:  Huh?  Are we there yet?
  • Contrarians:    We see no value in any of this.  We are the only Agile Team doing it correctly.  Your posts bore me.  Why hold retrospectives?  Why build our keep doing, start doing, stop doing lists?  Why pick 1 to 2 actionable items from these lists to help ratchet up the performance of our team?  Now go away, you bother me…

Okay, now what Agile Team do you want to be part of?

My new challenge:  Take ownership and go make it happen then.  Don’t wait for your manager, the product owner, or scrum master to go do it for you; you go lead the charge to do it. 

So why did I do this follow up post 2 months early?  You still have time to take this advice to heart and to help your Agile Team get back on track.  I’d rather do a temperature check a little early.  It allows for some teams to be able to say “oh darn!” and to make some positive changes sooner rather let a couple of more months go by without anything positive happening.

One last challenge:  When you have some improvements under your belt which have worked in a positive way please comment about them in response to this post and share them with others.  We’re all in this together…

 

About this series:  I love Agile; I also hate Agile.  I love how it can free teams to truly delight customers while delivering high quality products on time.  I hate how Agile zealots can use the Tower of Agile Babble to confuse the heck out of teams trying Agile on for size.  My goal is to help new teams actually embrace and become Agile without having to learn all of the pomp and circumstance in one big fat swallow.

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