Do you get value from your retrospective?

A retrospective is a meeting where the team stop working and take a step back to review how well they are working and what they can do to improve.

It is generally done every sprint (or every two weeks if there is no sprinting going on).

The theory is easy – the team share their views on what went well in the last fortnight, what did not go well and what they should keep doing or change as a result.

In practice though, it often turns into a therapy session where people share opinions about the way the world is really bad (or even how the team is awesome) and then they wander off without taking on any action items.

So when your team have lost their mojo and the retros are getting stale maybe it is time to do a retro on the retro.  Similarly, when you first start out as a team, it is often good to define what you might want to get from your retro.

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Different Retrospectives and pre-mortems

One of the most powerful components of agile approaches is the retrospective.  I often think that even if a team does not know what “agile” is, if that team pauses on a regular basis and reflects on how to get better at what they do, then they would invent most of the other agile practices for themselves.

But stopping on  a regular basis can get stale after a while, so I thought I would sharer some slightly different sets of questions that you can use to keep things fresh.

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Minor update to role speed dating

Running through the speed dating exercise I sometimes do, we tried a variant.

We had a meeting with leaders across several teams that integrates together.  So  we went through the usual job summary to see if people had a similar focus and understanding of their roles:

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Dealing with baddies on agile projects

[Editors note – this is a long an obscure article that made sense to me and some people I explained it to. If it is not making sense half way through abort rather than continuing … it either makes sense early on or does not make sense at all]

I was running an agile course on how to facilitate good work in agile teams.  We had some great discussions about conflict being good and people being unleashed to create value rather than being held back by managers who try to control them to force them to add value.

But then we had a less comfortable conversation. Someone asked what you do with someone who is being a [bad person] in an agile team.

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Clarifying agile roles – speed dating?

I went through this quick meeting with an agile class recently and I said I would post this for the crew to refer back to.

In agile teams there are a couple of core roles and then the rest depends on the kind of work the team does.  But we can give some more clarity than this, as I have previously discussed here.

Even so, the role of the Scrum Master or Product Owner or Tech Lead or even others will vary from project to project and even sprint to sprint.

So I often have people sit down together and actually tell each other what they think they are in the team for.  Essentially I get them to go through these questions that I got from a book called “Stand Back and Deliver.”

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Card sorting – agile BA technique 158

Card sorting is a simple and useful way to gather feedback on which features people want in a new system, which problems they want solve or generally speaking, what they want.

So I was surprised recently when some business analysts I was working with had not heard of the technique and I thought I would describe it here so they can look at it again.

All you need is something people want and a pile of cards to sort:

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Velocity is great but meaningless on its own

I just wrote a couple of entries on “velocity” and now I want to look at some of the implications of using it.

Here I will be looking at how we interpret velocity and how we can use it. In particular I will be looking at how it relates to concepts such as “done”, “regression testing” and “showcases.”

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Quick notes on handing over knowledge

I recently got asked if I have any examples of things to hand over to a production support team when doing an agile project.

I guess, in fact, it doesn’t matter if you are handing over to someone else or supporting something yourself when you go live.  Either way you want something to refer back to.

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What does a velocity chart look like in an agile team?

In my last article I gave a brief description of “velocity” and how I might use it in a training course.  I ended up measuring progress in “coffee points.”

This allowed me to plan my training topics and to share our progress during the day with the students in the class so we could continuously plan during the day.

All great stuff – but you might not actually know what a velocity graph looks like.  So this article runs through how I might draw my velocity graph as a “burn-up chart”, “burn-down chart” or something else.

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