Team Greatness: Retrospectives (introduction)

If I were asked one practice to select for a team that would be retrospectives. And when I am asked what are the most difficult aspects of team agility and greatness: again retrospectives.

Retrospective means that team collectivelly reflects their past learnings and successes, discusses and evaluates them and collaboratively aims for improvement over a period of time. Continuous improvement is addressed towards longer time-scale and experiments are aiming for (almost) immediate impact.

Scrum (or actually Mike Cohn) defines retrospectives as

Although there are many ways to conduct an agile sprint retrospective, our recommendation is to conduct it as a start-stop-continue meeting.

I love the simplicity of this definition and also the fact that it addresses experimental mindset. Way too often I have encountered attitude towards improvement being “it is too hard” or “it requires too much effort”. Wrong, as with small experiments we actually build the path towards continuous improvement culture.

Lean (and Kanban) addresses this exactly with the same thinking: combining Kaizen (events) with longer term Kaikaku (radical change).

One of the first things I ask from a team or organisation is about retrospectives: “do you have them”, “when was the last time you had them” “how often you have them” or “how do you measure success”. The answers are revealing a lot and it is pretty fast to start improve together when addressing it from this direction. In our company we are building retrospective culture for every partner, customer or community we are involved with.

Retrospectives are vital part of any team based organisation. It is fundamental, fun and it has probably one of the highest ROI for any team.