Aginext CommunityHighlight

Rethinking Retrospectives — Online and Off

Are your retrospectives improving overtime? Or perhaps you aren’t even measuring that?

In this month’s Lean Coffee, we had a hearty debate and warm sharing of experiences running the most sacred of Agile rituals: the Retrospective.

This community newsletter will try to summarise some of that fun. We also wanted to remind you that the Aginext Community is here for you. One creative — unusual even — way to participate in this community is by joining our namesake event 17 to 19 March. It’s an interactive anti-webinar — just check out the schedule! Be warned though: Our Very Early Bird Sale ends tomorrow Tuesday 26 January.

Favourite energisers that can be used remotely

First we defined what the purpose of an energiser is. It seems the consensus is to make people feel comfortable and to create a safe environment. It can also be, as its name suggests, a way to raise the energy in the room or get a feel for the pulse. An energiser usually takes about five minutes at the start of a retro or any meeting really.

Some energising ideas include:

  • Everyone looking for weather images online to show how they are feeling today
  • ESVP: Explorer – Shopper – Vacationer – Prisoner
  • Bring an Item that reflects how you’re feeling today, which in turn creates trust
  • You can also have everyone turn in pics of an important possession and then guess whose is what
  • Have teammates run to get their most ridiculous hat or that special something in under 30 seconds (gets them out of their seats!)
  • Use an easy meme generator to share problems/concerns in a way you can laugh about it. By first identifying problems and then laughing about them, it can make them seem more solvable.

How can you measure the success of a retrospective?

This was a bit controversial in our community meetup but then got real controversial in our Slack community.

Comments included that mature teams should always be looking for continuous improvement, and if you always review processes, interactions and tools, something will always come up to improve.

An attendee asked: Is the length of the retro a measure of success?

Another uses Team Canvas to measure success.

Another posited that success of retros is measured by if they set experiments to perform and measure and if they review them at the next retro.

Another participant shared a wonderful point: Success is measured by if everyone in the retrospective participated or contributed to it.

Later on Slack our co-organiser of the Meetup Philippe vehemently said we do not measure the success of a retrospective at all, which he says is generally an indication that you have lost sight of your purpose. He points to success of your retrospectives is found when you are managing to drive continuous improvements…. and even this is something that is difficult to measure.

He advocated instead for following Lean’s Gemba:

  • Go see – this recognises the need to visualise and also to meet people where the work happens (in the digital space it’s not as obvious, but an effort should be made to go to the people and maintain a kaizen board)
  • Ask questions – this is about stimulating the team to find answers, while leaving the responsibility with them (“holding the system in coaching terms”). For leadership this means a good understanding of complexity + a specific stance (very much of a coach)
  • Respect people – This is about creating a climate of psychological safety for discussions. If you do not have this, you will not get the truth.

 “In the virtual world of software, if you don’t get the information from the people that do the work, you are essentially blind,” Philippe said. “It is not so much about the measurements. It is about being in the process. Once you are, you just know.”

What questions do you ask in a retrospective?

Finally, we touched on what sorts of — of course open-ended — questions to ask in a retro.

Enrico, January’s lean coffee guest, thoughtfully summarised our retro questions and grouped them into five groups:

  • questions to start
  • find connections
  • prioritise
  • divergence
  • convergence

Hope to see you at the February Lean Coffee where we self-organise around themes of self-care and well-being, In the meantime, see you on Slack!