What is needed for functional retrospectives? Retro’s do not always work and sometimes it is difficult to see why. After taking part in both unsuccessful and successful retro’s I now try to list couple of things I think are required for functional retrospectives.

Team

You actually need a team. Not a group of individuals where personal motivations interfere with honest discussion and evaluation of the past. You must have a common goal.

Self-esteem

In a retrospective you must be able to confront your own work and its results. You may have made mistakes but that must be acceptable and allowed. Get rid of culture of blame.

Facilitator

Be it someone from your team or an outsider someone has to spend time on thinking what is the topic of each retro, what activities or games you will use and where and when it will take place. The internet is full of innovation games and retrospective activities, some very good books on the subject can be found. The facilitator is also needed to keep the retro focused.

Topic

This is important, you need focus! Simply asking what was good/bad, what to keep/forget is not sufficient. You need to activities that produce SMART values. Proper topic is also much more better motivator for the participants than repeated and boring questions.

Willingness

This is about you and your team. If you don’t want to improve having retrospectives is futile.

Simple ingredients, hard to prepare!

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2 Comments

  1. Nicely said, Jussi. These are the essential ingredients!

    (BTW, where does the name “Agile Poodle” come from? )

    Best,

    Esther

  2. Thank you for your kind words Esther! I just cleared my Google Reader (>180 unread items) and noticed that you had blogged about the same topic :-)

    Agile Poodle is based on my IRC nick puudeli (@IRCnet), which is a Finnish word for poodle. I like dogs, (we have a soft-coated wheaten terrier at home) but poodles are controversial, maybe due to the stereotypes we have of their owners :-). So, I had poodle as a nick, but I’m a rogue agilista, so I became an agile poodle! I hear that I am sometimes a bit irritating with all my enthusiasm,conforming to the stereotypes I guess ;-)

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