Goal-oriented retrospectives

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Dezember 20, 2016

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In the normal case, every retrospective starts with gathering the data from the last sprint. Often enough it happens, that the team discusses the same topics again and again and it feels like not moving anywhere. But still, we insist on starting every retrospective from scratch.

Instead, it could make sense to focus on one and only one topic for a predefined time frame and make this topic the central theme for the upcoming retrospectives. Just imagine, that the team has quality issues with their current product already for quite some time and everything they tried so far, was only a drop in the ocean. Now, the team decides to define the topic of improving the product quality as their main theme for the next three month. This means that every retrospective in the next month will explicitly care for getting rid of these issues.

It makes sense, to do a short rating of the theme at the beginning of such a timeframe to get a feeling where the team is currently at (e.g. between 1 and 10). Based on this rating, the team defines a goal they want to reach in the next month. Only after that goal has been reached, the team will focus on another topic. It’s a bit like a task force approach.

At the beginning of a themed retrospective, the experiments of the last one are validated. The team checks, if the defined experiments were successful and the initial hypothesis was true. If yes, they can focus on the next issues. If no, they can define the next experiments to tackle it, by considering the potential root causes for the fail (Generate Insights).

The advantages of such an approach are the clear focus on a certain topic and the prevention to talk about the same things again and again. At the same time, you get the purpose back into your retrospectives, because everybody knows, what goal you want to reach by doing them.

What do you think? Could this be a helpful approach for you and your team? Please, leave a comment.

About the author 

Marc Löffler

Marc Löffler ist Keynote-Speaker, Autor und Mentor für passionierte Scrum Master. Er befasst sich schon seit 2005 leidenschaftlich mit agilen Methoden, wie z.B. Scrum, Kanban oder eXtreme Programming. Bevor er mit dem Thema Agilität in Berührung gekommen war, hat er als zertifizierter Projektmanager (IPMA) bei Firmen wie Volkswagen, Siemens und EADS erfolgreich multinationale Projekte geleitet. Mit Begeisterung hilft er Unternehmen dabei, agile Werte zu verstehen und genau die Form von Agilität zu finden, die zum jeweiligen Unternehmen passt. Dabei nutzt er sein PASSION Modell, um die jeweilige Situation zu analysieren und sinnvolle nächste Schritte hin zur passionierten, agilen Organisation zu definieren. Er liebt es, neue Einsichten zu generieren, und unterstützt Unternehmen dabei, Probleme aus kreativen, neuen Blickwinkeln zu betrachten. Seit September 2018 ist er zertifizierter Professional Speaker GSA (SHB) mit der besten Keynote seines Jahrgangs. Im Jahr 2014 erschien sein Buch „Retrospektiven in der Praxis“ beim dpunkt.verlag. Im Jahr 2018 folgte das Buch „Improving Agile Retrospectives“ bei Addison Wesley. Im Februar 2022 folgte dann das Buch "Die Scrum Master Journey" beim BusinessVillage Verlag.

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  1. Hi Marc

    I always like the approach of „focus on one item and go without everything else“ – but executing it in real life demands for some „balls“ :).

  2. Thanks for the article! Topic orientation is my plan for the next retrospective However, at the moment there are about 4 significant „puzzles“ that the team tries to figure out. I am thinking of sending these topics to the team upfront so that they can „dot vote“ online and have a prioritized list.
    In your opinion what would be better course of focus if there is a tie in the votes? Do we split our time and experiments to both or continue the discussion at the meeting to define a „winner“?

    1. Hi Maria

      If the team consists of 6 or more people, I would split the group in two, to work on both topics. But I’m pretty sure, that you’ll have a winner after your dot voting.

      Cheers
      Marc

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