Review: Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives

Cover-GettingAgileoutofAgileRetrospectivesBen Linders and Luis Gonçalves wrote a handy booklet about retrospectives: ‘Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives – A Toolbox of Retrospective Exercises’. The book is available in several languages.

In the first paragraphs we get a definition of retrospectives, why do we do a retrospective and how to conduct a retrospective. Next the authors give some pre-requirements to prepare yourself for doing retrospectives. The biggest part of the book is dedicated to the design of retrospectives and a detailed description of retrospective exercises.

Retrospective definition: “A practice used by teams to reflect on their way of working and to become continuously better at what they do.”

Why do we do a retrospective: “To establish and maintain teams and to help them become stronger. Retrospectives can make your organization faster, more efficient and innovative”.

If you want to raise business value with your retrospectives you can do:

  • Empower your teams
  • Focus on learning and understanding in stead of blame
  • Limit the number of issues
  • Use the golden rules for process improvements
  • Focus on clearly defined problems
  • Use root cause analysis
  • Follow up on and evaluate the progress of actions
  • Use different exercises

The given pre-requirements for retrospectives are copied from norman Kerth’ book ‘Project Retrospectives’: The need for the ritual, naming the process, prime directive for a retrospective, the darker side of retrospectives and the retrospective facilitator.

To design a retrospective the authors follow the five activities as described by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen in their book Agile Retrospectives:

  1. Set the stage
  2. Gather data
  3. Generate insights
  4. Decide what to do
  5. Close the retrospective

By using different exercises, selected for the goal you would like to achieve, you can get most value out of your retrospective. All retrospective exercises are described in the following format. What can you expect out of the exercise, when to use the exercise and how to do it. The following exercises are described in detail:

  • Asking questions
  • Starfish (Stop, Less, Keep, More, Start)
  • Sailboot (goals/vision, Risks, Slow down things, What helps)
  • One-word exercise (how you feel)
  • Car brand (think about an iteration as a car brand)
  • Happiness index
  • Five times why
  • Constellation
  • Team assessment survey
  • Strengths-based retrospective
  • High performance tree
  • Value stream mapping
  • Retrospective of retrospectives (with several teams)

High performance tree (developed by Lyssa Adkins)

The book ends with paragraphs focussing on the benefits of retrospectives and how you can implement and adopt retrospectives.

Conclusion: a must read for scrum masters, agile coaches and project managers to assure that their retrospectives get the attention they need to get the most out of them as well as expanding their toolbox. And if you feel it is still not enough, have a look at this retrospective exercise which I found on YouTube. Treasure Island – Retrospective (Is developed by Paul Flewelling)

To order: Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives

5 responses to “Review: Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives

  1. Thanks Henny for your kinds words about our book. Our mission is to help teams and organizations all over the world to get more value from doing agile retrospectives. Your review of our book helps us to reach out and share our experiences, very much appreciated!

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  3. hennyportman
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