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Paul D'Ambra
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Fangler
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Thu Jul 06 2017

Retrosperiment

(originally posted on the code computerlove blog)

Experimenting with a "new" retro format

For our team's most recent retro we decided to try a new format to see how it affected our discussion. We thought we'd share it here in case it has value for other teams.

What is it?

A retrospective is a practice from XP described on the c2.wiki as

A practice which has an XP team asking itself, at the end of each iteration : What went well ? What could be improved ? What could we experiment with ?

We've recently had several discussions trying to focus on the real and perceived progress of our work and thought it would be beneficial to run the retro with a focus on the impact of our team's principles and practices. Specifically how they relate to delivery of value and speed of delivery.

We first drew axes on a white-board

The axes of the retro graph

Since any and all software communication must take the form of some set of quadrants…

the quadrants this describes

Then the whole team wrote on post-it notes what they thought our principles and practices were and put them on the board.

The faster that practice helps us move the further right the post-it goes. The more value it lets us deliver the higher it goes.

So what did this look like in practice?

the post-its

This let us see straight away where we had different opinions across the team

  • feature flags
  • estimates
  • road-maps
  • Slack / comms

And where, when we agreed roughly on position, we needed to focus on if we could speed-up or get more value

This was a very different discussion than we would usually have. Anchored more in what we could change and how we might change it than how we feel about things…

the discussion

It's obviously still important to address the team's morale and individual concerns but this list of discussion points felt more focused, as we'd hoped, on what we can change to deliver more value faster.

Retroception

After a retrospective of the retrospective format the team members felt that it might have been useful to constrain the number of things we were allowed to put on the board. Or to dot vote on the items before discussing them to allow us more time to dig in to the discussion.

Why not try it and let me know if it works for you too?