Getting Better (8/8)

If you keep doing something in the same way over and over again, it is very possible that you will keep repeating the same results. The results you get, no matter how good or bad, can always be better, if only some time is put into retrospecting them.

Agile Retrospective

The act of ‘taking a look back’ happens after every iteration. It can last from a couple of minutes to an hour or more, depending on how long your iterations are and how much time you want to invest.

My iterations are one month long, so always on the last day of a month I take a few minutes to ask myself several questions.

The visual boards provide the answer to the first one:

  • What has been done? What work has been completed?
Usually, I add a few more items because my boards show just project progress, not other life activity. Sometimes I want to add my career accomplishments or nice events with my family and friends as well. This question provides input for feeling self-accomplished and for considering a small personal reward. It might be this that makes Retrospective my favorite part of the process.

The other questions require more time. I write my answers using my board and put them in the Retrospective column. If you are working on one project at a time, use the board of that project. If you have simultaneous projects, you don’t need to do this for each, only for those that you worked on and where it makes sense. (Tip: I often enjoy doing my Retrospective outside an online tool – eg. in a diary).

  • What practices worked?
  • What practices didn’t work? Should they be replaced or completely removed ?
  • Is there any work that was planned and didn’t get done? If so, what is the reason?
  • Did I meet my iteration goal?
  • What is important to me now? What are my priorities? What are my most important goals?
  • What stories do I want to do next? Should anything be added or removed from the Backlog right now?
  • What could be done better in the next iteration?
  • What is the one thing that I definitely want to see finished at the end of the next iteration? (this will become the next iteration goal)
After answering these, I get precious clarity on what I should do in the next iteration and what I should do differently. Action items to address issues from my Retrospective are either added to my Backlog and given priority or, if they are small, go straight into my dynamic to-do list.

Before starting my next iteration, I take care of that the Retrospective column is empty again (some items just get deleted, that is okay – the important thing is that they have been acknowledged and that for some of them corrective actions have been identified and prioritized). I like to archive my Retrospectives so that I can check on my progress anytime throughout the year (as I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m driven by progress and this is yet another visual evidence of it).

Here are some lessons that my Retrospectives taught me about me and my process:

  • My long-time to dos (from months and even years ago) started disappearing – either got finally done or got removed as really no longer important.
  • My Backlog does work as a place where I can visualize my ideas and keep track of them.
  • With agile ways of working, my writers block started to melt away (yay!).
  • I became active in areas I didn’t consider before because now I know that I can find time for anything I want to try.
  • I became much calmer and more patient about my future plans, because I know that their time will come. Less stress.
  • I realized that things I plan rarely get done the way I plan them but the most important one (iteration goal) always gets done.
  • I found out that it is more feasible to handle my projects on weekly basis and my to-do list daily (previously I was trying to come also to my project boards daily).
  • I learned to keep my daily to-do list up to 5 items long, otherwise to-dos rarely got done and it started to feel overwhelming.
  • I try not to mix stories from various projects into one day now and focus on just one project during a day.
  • I try to slow down more often and enjoy the process as much as or even more than the results.
I invite you to continue reading this blog in future as I believe you may find some useful tips for your Retrospectives here.

Please understand all the information provided in this eight part series as inspiration, not as a set of rules.

Good luck!

Questions For You

What did you like? What did you learn? What did you lack?

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One thought on “Getting Better (8/8)

  1. I’ve really enjoyed reading this blog series Lenka… adding in your personal experiences really gives it warmth and shows up your writing talent too! ..and I can’t help but smile when you mention some of those lessons we all learned together in our first Agile team. So proud of you and what you have accomplished!

    Liked by 1 person

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