The Value of the Retrospective

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For those of you that follow the Scrum methodology you may already know all too well the value of the retrospective. However for those of you in organisations where the concept of Scrum and words like Agile and Retrospective are still foreign, lets first break down what the retrospective is and what value it brings to the Scrum environment before we talk about what our weekly retrospective means for us at Exclr8 and the value it brings to us as an organisation.

The retrospective as defined by Tech Target is; “An Agile retrospective is a meeting that’s held at the end of an iteration in Agile software development (ASD). During the retrospective, the team reflects on what happened in the iteration and identifies actions for improvement going forward.”

During this process the focus is on what worked well what didn’t work well and how we can improve on our process going forward.

Whilst the meeting is chaired by the ScrumMaster, it is team driven and the topics that are discussed and action items identified for the next iteration are decided and agreed up by the team.

In an Agile environment there is a focus on continuous improvement and with this in mind the retrospective is a critical element in taking a very honest and introspective look at the team’s performance over the  past weeks sprint and which areas can be improved upon going forward to improve team velocity as well as overall morale and ultimately client satisfaction.

So what exactly has the retrospective meant for us as a company and for our development team at Exclr8?

Firstly I should start by saying we have taken the concept of the retrospective and tailored it to suit our needs as an organisation. Retrospectives are held weekly on Friday afternoons and whilst we have numerous development teams working on different projects the team voted as a unit that the retrospective meeting should be communal so that the team would all meet together regardless of whether or not one of the teams may be midway through a sprint. What this means for us is that we get to have all the developers together as a full team for an hour on a Friday afternoon. For us as a company it acts as a chance to build team moral to give teams that may not have interacted with each other at length during the week a chance to talk and ‘bond’. It has also proved itself to be a platform where ideas have been shared, teams learn from the success and sometime even the failures of other teams, they share ideas on new technologies, and have an opportunity to review each other’s projects and work completed in the previous sprint week.

This hour for our teams means a chance to look at not just individual teams but how we as an organisation are faring week on week, how we can improve and what actions we need to take in the week ahead to make sure we are constantly improving our skills, constantly improving our service and offering to our clients and our relationships with our clients and with each other.

Every week we take a maximum of 3 actions items out of the retrospective which are tasked to individual members and which need to be completed in the week ahead, this ultimately means for us as an organisation every week we are fine tuning, making adjustments and implementing ideas and strategies that are aimed at growing and improving the organisation.

Being Agile for an organisation means being able to adapt and change quickly when market or client requires it. We’ve embodied this and every week we take this opportunity to adapt and change in a way that is in the best needs of our clients and company as a whole.

Without the retrospective, we would like many companies rely on a once a month staff meeting, a chain of emails and ideas or concerns being isolated within departments or teams without engagement and without them being voiced or shared.

In closing, there are a lot of great formats for the typical retrospective that we’ve tried and tested in an effort to gain the most out of the time together. In the weeks ahead I’ll share some of these with you and would welcome feedback on what formats you may have adopted and found the greatest results with.

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