The Agile Tribe

Retrospectives without action are like faulty vending machines – neither give you change!

on January 25, 2011

Authors: The Agile Coaching Community

In this second part of their blog, the Agile coaching community continue to share their experiences of running successful retrospectives.

Teams should focus on the goal of the retrospective, the context of the team and use questions that will help the team to move forward and improve. Look for problems that are similar and identify the root cause. Many issues could be solved by this one simple action.

We also recommend shaking things up occasionally and trying something new to ensure the retrospectives don’t get stale.

There are many techniques and ways to run Agile retrospectives and any or all of them could be used depending on the situation and the context of the team. Some excellent resources on retrospectives include the book –Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. There is also an Agile Retrospective Resource Wiki that contains plans, tips and tricks and other helpful hints ( and you can also find several one page Agile Practice Help sheets on a variety of Retrospectives from the Agile Academy’s website.

No matter what type of retrospective technique you use,make sure to set up a positive and appreciative environment that encourages generative thinking!

Research has shown, that more of the brain functions in the presence of positive focus and praise, than problems focus and criticism. Consider asking, “What can be done better?” rather than, “What didn’t go well?” Help the team capture and recognise their successes and achievements and reward the generation of new ideas.

“No action, no change. Limited action, limited change. Lots of action, Change occurs.” ~ Catherine Pulsifer

No matter what method you choose or questions you ask, the important thing is to come out up with concrete ideas, then put them into action so they lead to change. Remember, the focus is on continuously improving. Change can’t occur without an action and a catalyst.

Many of us find that there’s no time for actions, we spend too much time reading through the cards running out of time to plan our actions!

So here are some tips we feel that might help ensure you get the most value from your retrospective:

  1. Plan enough time to discuss actions and make sure they are assigned to someone
  2. At the beginning of the retro follow up on actions from the last one to ensure they have been done
  3. Consider capturing retro discussion points throughout the iteration on a Big Visible Chart (BVC) and use the retrospective to focus on actions
  4. Prioritise and focus on the things that have a high impact and high frequency
  5. Keep a positive focus
  6. Consider holding the retro offsite. Creating a relaxed and non-interruptive environment is very important
  7. Communicate the output and share the learning. Also publish on the wall to insure transparency and open communication
  8. Keep up the energy levels by holding retrospectives regularly and don’t be afraid to share it up by trying something new in your retro
  9. Remember that good is the enemy of great (from Jim Collins’s book on “Good to Great”)

    So what has been your experience with retrospectives? Are they working for your team? What have you found worked or didn’t work? Do you have any suggestions that others could benefit from?


One response to “Retrospectives without action are like faulty vending machines – neither give you change!

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Agile Academy and quasutra, The Agile Tribe. The Agile Tribe said: New Blog posted: Retrospectives without action are like faulty vending machines – neither give you change! #agile […]

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