The Agile Principles Retrospective

This is an interesting session and one not to be used lightly: if the team come to this with an open mind and an honest point of view, it can be a shock to the system. I used it with one team who thought they were highly Agile but in reality were facing many anti-patterns. This exercise, held at the retrospective, acted as a mirror for the team to reflect their true behaviours and give them a chance to recognise the challenges they faced and what they could do as a team to move closer to a true agile way of working. This retrospective can be used at any point for either a small Scrum team or a larger department to assess Agile maturity and come up with practical steps to move closer to the principles.

How it Works

1. There is some preparation for the facilitator before this session: firstly visit the Agile manifesto site and copy down the 12 principles, word for word, onto individual index cards.

2. Prepare a spider diagram template with 12 arms, one for each of the 12 principles.

The blank spider diagram ready for use in the session

3. Then it’s time for the session! As the facilitator, read each principle out loud and show the principle to the team. They each make a note on a sheet of paper of where they think they match this principle -as a team- on a scale of 0 (not at all) to 10 (living and breathing the principle!). This is done in private and anonymously by each team member for each of the 12 principles.

4. Once all 12 principles have been read out, give the team a 5 minute breather to go and grab a coffee. Meanwhile, collect the anonymous responses and collate them. You want the median response of the team for each principle rather than any individual responses. Map them onto the spider diagram.

5. When the team are back, it’s time to examine the spider diagram. It should give you a good visual feedback on how ‘Agile’ you really are, and may cause some surprises among the team. Before the session it’s important you understand why you are holding this retrospective and have a plan for building a concrete improvement plan from it.

6. You can have a timeboxed discussion, an agreement to tackle the lowest scoring principles, or maybe focus on the areas the team feel they have most ability to improve. For my team, we focused on the three principles with the lowest scores and as a team came up with an action plan to work on for the next Sprint.

Outcomes and Thoughts

Our completed spider diagram with our three principles to focus on improving

As mentioned above, this is a session that needs to be introduced mindfully and with careful consideration. I knew my team needed a someone to hold a mirror up to them to reflect how they were adapting to an agile way of working, and only held this session with a team I knew I had trust and psychological safety with. We knew we had a safe environment and I knew the team would give honest responses to the questions. It was still difficult for some of them to see what Agile really means and how we were still very new to this. However, my team were also very keen to improve and help each other out: there were some very honest conversations about who had given what scores to each principles and why they felt that way. They were also very good at coming up with positive, achievable actions to improve on the principles they as a team felt they were struggling with.

So there you go: a step-by-step guide on how to facilitate your own Agile principles retrospective. I’d love you hear your thoughts and experiences if you give it a go yourself — get in touch if you do!

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