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7. Techniques

7.14 Retrospectives

Agile Extension to the BABOK® Guide

Retrospectives are used to continuously improve by reflecting on what went well, what could be better, and to improve the processes.

The retrospective provides an opportunity for all members of the team to reflect on the most recent deliveries. The retrospective includes the entire team. It is common for the retrospective to be split into two parts. First, the team reflects on the past iteration. Second, the team identifies ways to adapt.

Retrospectives are held at key milestones in the solution life cycle, normally at the end of every iteration/release, so learning can be quickly embedded in the processes and practices going forward.

Retrospectives focus on identifying issues with the process. They identify process improvements and are not personal in any sense. They include a safety check to ensure team members can speak freely and constructively.

It may be useful for Retrospectives to be facilitated by a neutral facilitator rather than by a member of the team.

Where fixed iteration cycles are not being used, regular Retrospectives are scheduled to enable the team to examine their processes.

.1 Review Previous Action Items

During a retrospective, action items identified in the previous retrospective are reviewed, and progress and impact assessed.

.2 Preparation

The team prepares ideas from the recent iteration that may be analyzed in the retrospective.

.3 Safety Check

The team agrees, together, to trust each other and to believe every comment or suggestion is intended for the sole purpose of improving the team's performance.

.4 Identify the Items

There are many mechanisms to identify items to discuss. One of the most common is for all team members to write up things that went well, things to improve, and things of interest to share as a group.

.5 Choosing Future Actions

Once all the ideas have been discussed to the satisfaction of the team, the team decides which solutions or improvements to focus on next. The team then identifies a timeline and assigns responsibility to an individual team member who ensures the solution or improvement is implemented.

.1 Strengths

  • An excellent way for the team to find a collective voice around opportunities for team improvement.

  • Addresses issues early and focuses on improving the process.

  • Allows continuous improvement of the team.

  • Empowers the team.

  • Can be self-facilitated by the team.

.2 Limitations

  • Team members may feel obliged to pretend that they trust each other, even though they do not.

  • Retrospectives are only of value if the team acts upon the learning from the session to improve the process.

  • Most ideas raised in the retrospective are known to at least one member of the team. A mature team should be addressing issues as they arise rather than batching them up to be handled in a retrospective.

  • If issues raised in the retrospective are not addressed, there is a risk to team morale and motivation.