Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Seven Unique Ways To Breath In New Life In Your Sprint Retrospectives

Sprint retrospectives are an important part of scrum methodology. For Agile practitioners, retrospectives hold a special significance, and offer an insight into the self-learning capabilities supported by scrum.

The primary objectives of a sprint retrospective meeting are:
·       Display the user stories to the stakeholders, which have been developed by the team during the daily sprints  
·       Have the user stories accepted by the investors as “shippable”
·       Discuss and review the entire sprint, and analyze it to find how the sprinting process can be improved upon
·       Find what lessons can be learnt from the sprint, and how the team can benefit from prior findings and experiences
One of the issues faced by the scrum team is the team members end up discussing the same issues and problems in most of the retrospective meetings. The team feels it is discussing the same topics again-and-again, and therefore it is redundant to hold retrospectives. In all aspects, the retrospectives seem to be going “stale” and the team might be just holding it because scrum advocates it. The learning and self correction process stops in such cases, and the retrospective loses its importance and functionality.

So how can you pump in new life in the retrospectives? A few pointers may help you improve your meetings.

1. Rotating the leadership
Instead of the scrum master facilitating the meeting, invite the team members to temporarily assume the role of a scrum master and conduct the meeting. Each member takes turns and facilitates the meeting in his or her own particular way and manner. The members can be asked to experiment with newer adaptations and ways of holding the meeting.

2. Changing the questions
The two standard questions most commonly asked during the meeting are:
1.     What did we do well this time?
2.     What can be possibly improved upon in the next sprint?
Instead, try asking the question:
·       What actually happened during the sprints, and how did it occur?
Individuals tend to look at things from their own perspectives, and at times, they might fail to comprehend the true situation if they are forced to look at issues from a different point of view which they are not familiar with. Asking questions which they find easy to answer can go a long way in making the retrospective more interesting and useful.

3. Varying the process
Each scrum team has its own method of conducting the meeting. While some teams prefer group discussions during the retrospectives, a few of the teams follow the traditional pattern of having one member demonstrate his or her work to the stakeholders. Whichever process you follow, try to change it by including variations into the meeting pattern. A recommended method is to use histograms indicating member satisfaction levels. The survey can be conducted anonymously and the findings presented to the entire team. Suggestions can be availed from the team members as to what new aspects ought to be incorporated to make the meeting interesting. 

4. Thinking about unique perspectives
Individuals and people who are not directly connected with the scrum project, but are still attached to the project somehow can be invited to attend the meeting. Vendors and system deployment personnel have different insights to offer since they are directly connected with the market and have a “working knowledge” about consumer psychology and requirements. Their participation can help the scrum team to avail a broader perspective regarding how the development of user stories should be ideally carried out.

5. Changing the focus
Every team has a certain focal point, which it concentrates upon while developing the project. Switching the focus can also prompt the team to come up with new ideas about how the scrum process can be improved upon. If the team is concentrating too much upon the engineering practices, the focus could be changed to collaborative working and solving technical issues by sharing out the problems.Read more on

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