Agile Retrospectives


This book is about retrospectives, mainly the sprint retrospectives.  The first three chapters are introductory.  The next five chapters provide activities during the retrospectives around the structure they introduce at the beginning of the book.  The final two chapters wrap up the book. The information could be applied to any project or facilitated meeting, but the authors do a very good job about maintaining a laser focus on Agile.

When people ask for a book recommendation on “Agile”, most folks recommend Cohn’s book on Estimating and Planning.  A great book, but the motivation is learning how to manage an Agile project, rather than creating a great team.  If you do nothing else right other than to get better each week, you will become great.  Hence I recommend this book when people ask for the “one” book on Agile.

Top 3 Things I learned
  1. The structure of a retrospective: Set the Stage, Gather Data, Generate Insights, Decide What to Do, and Close the Retrospective
  2. There is preparatory work prior to the retrospective beyond just getting the room and sending out the invite.
  3. Lots of good techniques beyond the “Worked, Not Worked, Change” format.
Notes: Chapter 1: Helping your team inspect and adapt

5 phases:

  1. Set the stage
  2. Gather Data
  3. Generate Insights
  4. Decide what to do
  5. Close

Utlimate Goal: Effectiveness.

Role of Working Agreements: Structure to Difficult Tasks.

Some Takeaways:

  • Rotate leading role
  • Assign a person to gather data ahead of time and present
  • Add action items to scrum board.
Notes: Chapter 2: A Retrospective Custom-fit to your team

NOTE: Not much content in this chapeter

Prepare for the retrospective.

I was a bit surprised that the time alloted to Gather Data was larger than Generate Insights.

Just say no to tables at a retrospective.

Evaluating Instructional Design (ARCS)

  • Attention
  • Relevant
  • Confidence/Competence
  • Satisfaction
Notes: Chapter 3: Leading Retrospectives

Leading a retrospective means

  • 6Manage Activities
    • Introduce
    • Monitor
    • Debrief
  • Manage Dynamics
  • Time
Notes: Chapter 4: Activities to Set the Stage

4 Setting the stage activities

  • Check-In: Seems like easiest, most common
  • Focus On/Focus Off; Seems good if there is a contentious item
  • ESVP: Longer timeframe
  • Working Agreements
Notes: Chapter 5: Activities to Gather Data

8 Gather Data activities

  • Timeline: Longer, see patterns, use for other activities
  • Triple Nickel: Uncover: write, pass, build –> generate ideas
  • Color Code Dotes: Feelings on events in the timeline
  • Mad Sad Glad: Feeling out on the table
  • Locate Strengths: ID Strengths
  • Satisfaction History: applied to specific practices (Baseline and Current)
  • Team Radar: Radar Plot
  • Like to Like: Kind of like Apples to Apples
Notes: Chapter 6: Activities to Generate Insights

9 Generate Insights techniques

  • Brainstorm: Free for All | Round Robin | Write > Apply Filters
  • 5 Whys: get to 4 or 5 write them down
  • Force Field Analysis: Issue, State, Drive, Restrain (plus strength of Drive or Restrain)
  • Fish Bone: Issue at head, 5 w’s who, what, where, when, why apply the labels M’s, P’s, and S’s
  • Sticky Dots: Prioritize
  • Patterns and Shifts
  • Learning Matrix
  • Report out with Synthesis: Post interviews -> move from pairs to groups
  • ID Themes: Used with Timeline
Notes: Chapter 7: Activities to Decide what to do

4 activities to Decide what to do

  • Retro Planning Game: task, eliminate dup, check
  • Circle of Questions
  • SMART: Specific, Measurable, Action, Relevant, Timely
  • Short Subjects
Notes: Chapter 8: Activities to Close the Retrospective

5 Activities to Close the Retrospective

  • +/Delta: worked well or Change
  • Appreciation: Say what you appreciate
  • Temperature Ratings
    • Appreciation
    • New Information
    • Puzzles
    • Complaints
    • Hopes/Wishes
  • Helped, Hindered, Hypothesis
  • Return on time invested
Notes: Chapter 9: Releases and Project Retrospectives

NOTE: Not much that isn’t common sense here

Notes: Chapter 10: Make it So

NOTE: Not much here that is useful.


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