Tuesday, 26 May 2015

My Retrospective on my Retrospectives

I have been doing regular retro's for about a year since I changed direction career-wise. I have recently been looking over how my style has changed and looking at why these changes came about.

Working with an experienced Agile coach has certainly been the catalyst - Helen Meek has pointed out many areas of improvement which I have been gradually working on over the last few months. Other inspiration was from an amazing talk from a lady who works with kids on the Autistic spectrum called Gina Davies.

She describes how she centers attention around a box. There is something different every time in the box and the kids she works with respond to this by sitting and waiting to see what happens next. You don't realise how effective this is until you see some video - kids with ASD don't get 'waiting' but after a relatively short amount of time, they start to participate and want to wait to see what happens next. The box is 'magic' - something new happens every time.

So this got me thinking, what's my 'magic box'? The obvious answer is the retro. It should be fun and engage the team. It should be something we all look forward to. Here's my observations on things that I have changed over the last 6 months:

Keep it Fresh - One of the key things I have tried to uphold is to never repeat the same retrospective with a group. I mix up sections of the retro or come up with a dedicated retro to target a specific area that the team needs to improve on. Sometimes I am inspired and come up with something completely new, other times I spend some time putting something together using the awesome Retromat.

Experiment - Each team is different. Different styles and techniques fit with some teams and are lost on others. Experimenting with formats lets you continuously improve getting the team involved and engaged. You also learn what works for a given situation - your retro style and format may well change depending on the sprint and team morale.

Sit back, relax - Helen encouraged me to sit back and watch the team rather than stand up and direct. Sounds easy but your team may now be a bit lazy! By you sitting back 2 things will happen - first your team will need to get more involved and second you can observe your team and start actively getting people involved. Helen encouraged me to direct, rather than lead which is a really nice way of seeing it.

Stories not Events - I have noticed that the events that stick out are usually the bad ones. These are usually the ones brought up with allows for improvements but does not help with celebrating successes. We should be pepped by the end of a sprint! Using timelines you can encourage storytelling, allowing you to replay a sprint from beginning to end. You can journey through the sprint, looking at what happened so you can see both the good and bad points.

Be prepared! - I spend as much time prepping a retro as doing one, if not more. Since I vary my format, I have to spend some time thinking about what I am going to do. This is a good thing and the team deserve it. Playing out the same retro might feel safe but I should imagine the team dread it after a few months. Dedicate time to preparing your retro, fitting it in with the teams personalities and requirements.

I'm sure there is more but these are the ones I have had on my mind recently. Enjoy!

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