Good practices – Scrum or no Scrum – Practice-2

June 20, 2011 at 9:32 am | Posted in Blogroll, Scrum and agile, Software Engineering | Leave a comment

Retrospective meeting
Good practices help us to make a steady progress while at the same reducing risks for the future. Few weeks back, we saw one such practice used by Scrum teams, namely daily standup meetings. We also saw that once we understand the opportunities & challenges involved in such good practices, we can fruitfully apply them to not just software developments teams using other than Scrum, they can be used by teams in any other domains as well. One such practice we will see today is retrospective meeting.

As per Scrum, retrospective meeting is an essential practice to be conducted at the end of every sprint (that is iteration). Basically three things are done; what went well, what did not and what do we change for future. Rest of the mechanics of conducting retrospective meetings is well documented and readily available. I would rather focus on the aspects that are not so readily known but can benefit the individuals & the teams immensely. I hope this will generate enough sharing of mutual experiences.

Most important thing to take care is creating the right culture within the team. Some team members are likely to be antagonistic towards each other; there may be intense competition amongst others; they may have different and conflicting perspectives. All this is natural and to be expected. However, for the retrospective meetings to be successful it is very important to keep them aside and focus on what can be learnt from the sprint just completed. There must be frank discussions while at the same time maintaining a positive atmosphere throughout. It is not easy but few things if taken care greatly help. It is important to introduce in the first sprint and reinforced in subsequent sprints. It helps to have an experienced coach manage few initial meetings after which the scrum master can take care of it. For first few sprints, it helps to spend more time on “what went well” rather than “what did not”. Once the right culture is there, we can spend most of the time on improvement areas.

Good culture created and nourished during retrospective meetings helps other practices of Scrum as well. It helps during planning, during daily standup meetings as well as to work as a self-organizing team. This culture of being frank & positive is absolutely critical for success of Scrum.

Daily standup meetings and the retrospective meetings can be mutually supportive. Whatever comes out in the daily standup meetings of a sprint and requires more detailed discussion by the team should be captured and taken up during the retrospective meeting at the end of that sprint. For example, risks identified / unplanned tasks done categorized by person and by nature of reason for not being able to plan earlier / tasks with wide variations between planned hours and actual hours spent, and so.

These are easy to identify and capture. More difficult but very useful are the cases of ongoing tensions and conflicts between team members can be seen & felt by the scrum master and taken up during retrospective meeting. It also helps to highlight & appreciate cases of out of the way help provided by members to each other.

Last but not the least, whatever is decided to be changed for future must be converted into action items with owners & deadlines and effectively tracked till completion. Otherwise, the benefit of identifying such improvement areas will be largely lost.

Your views and experiences are very valuable; please share them.

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