Retrospective timeline tool

Many teams, as I noticed, are switching from one topic to another between retrospectives. At each meeting teams are working on a different thing. There is no link between retrospectives over a long period.

Doing so, even if single meeting is valuable, the big picture of continuous improvement is out of sight. After a couple of retrospectives, which do not bring real solution to long term cases (for example: tech debt) people are tired of talking about it over and over again.

Tech debt shall be visible and collected every iteration, not once in a while. So dealing with it regularly is key to success. It’s similar to all mid and long term issues the teams have. To address a problem of switching context at each retrospective meeting, we’re recently trying to visualize our actions in some persistent way. We want to constantly see such informations:

  • why we’re trying to solve an issue
  • how we’re trying to fix it
  • when we started
  • when we stopped

We came up with Retrospective Timeline.

How it works?

At each retrospective, we discuss each and every single problem/action from the list. We ask ourselves, among others the following questions:

  • does an issue still exist?
  • does an action which we selected is helping us to resolve this issue?
  • does it work for us?

When an action does not fit us and problem is still existing, then we change the action. Such approach allows us to track after couple iterations, why we’re still fighting particular topic.

By default all agreements from the list are valid, until we consciously decide to abandon it.

As long as agreement is valid, we fill proper cell on timeline in each iteration. When we decide to abandon selected issue, then we left proper cell blank.

Just by having a list for dozen iterations helps us tracking our current condition and continuous improvement. We can see what was an issue 10 sprints ago and if it’s still existing. If not then we can be proud of our progress. It’s very simple, yet powerful tool.

How do you work with big picture of team improvement?