Kennis To Boldly Retro Where no one has Retroed Before!

To Boldly Retro Where no one has Retroed Before!

Several years ago I picked up a copy of Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great at a used bookstore. I'll be honest, the main reason I bought it was that it was cheap. Yep. That and the fact I liked Pragmatic Thinking and The Pragmatic Programmer so much, two other books from the same series.

After reading it, I remember not being overly convinced and my general opinion was that it was a bit shallow and obvious. Not on par with those other books from the Pragmatic Bookshelf I read previously anyway. I put it on my shelf and never really used it again.

A few weeks ago I agreed to lead a retrospective for an Avisi team I used to be a member of. Knowing the team and their circumstances so well, I felt comfortable to finally try to use Agile Retrospectives for real...

And man, it really helped spice up the retrospective!

As I walked into the meeting room, I saw team members noticing the book under my arm. I heard loud sighs, and saw eyes turning to the ceiling in desperation. I grit my teeth, thought of Felix Baumgartner and we got started.

Turns out those deceptively simple techniques, that I had prematurely judged to be obvious and shallow, now came to life. It didn't take long for everybody (me included) to forget their skepticism and dive in. And when the team broke off in small groups to work on the Timeline exercise, the healthy chatter indicated clearly just how well the retrospective was going.

This was the first "by the book" retrospective ever for me, as for most on the team. The consensus was that we liked it a lot, and that it helped us discuss important topics in a way that was new and refreshing. Perhaps some important topics would not even have been discussed at all had we done the meeting differently.

I think next time we'll be trying out some other exercises from the book, see what happens...

Post Scriptum 1: Team member Chantal, present in the retrospective, decided to use the same kind of techniques again later that week while leading her own retrospective, with a different team. Again, it was a big success and was seen as refreshing and a real added value. Cool!

Post Scriptum 2: I think I am going to check out Pat Kua's book The Retrospective Handbook. Judging from the table of contents, this one's quite different from Agile Retrospectives.

If you have any tips regarding retrospective techniques or books, please add them in the comments!