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Importance of Sprint Retrospective In Agile Project Management

There is a buzz in the community of IT service providers and software developers about the terms like Agile software development, Agile project management, Agile transformation, Agile methodology, Agile adoption etc. After coming across encouraging Agile journey experiences within the industry, a number of software development companies are switching over to an Agile culture. Once the Agile teams achieve efficiency, the team members start missing some important steps well defined in Agile project management; one of those is ‘sprint retrospective’ – a very important Agile activity to improve the process, quality, client’s side satisfaction and profitability.  What is Sprint Retrospective? During the sprint retrospective, the entire team inspects the iteration and decides what can be done to improve the process. The outcomes of retrospective meetings are communicated to all the members; and, the suggestions are incorporated in the next iteration. It makes the retrospectives a never-to-miss exercise for short-cycled improvement and modification to varied circumstances. Here, I would refer “Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives – A Toolbox of Retrospective Exercises” written by Luis Gonçalves and Ben Linders. The ideal way to get the most of retrospective is to use the user stories describing ‘who, what & why’ for planning and tracking the improvements. 7 Key Benefits of Sprint Retrospectives:  It helps the support team to identify and resolve the conflict areas.  It helps the Agile team to improve the processes continuously by knowing ‘what can be improved’.  It allows all the members to share their views for improvement with the feel of ownership. It provides the roadmap for ‘start, stop doing & continue’.  It helps the project managers to keep the project on the right track by fixing the priorities and directions. It helps to identify the risk and problem factors at an early stage. It creates transparency and builds trust among the team members that strengthen the team spirit.  5 Stages of Sprint Retrospective That Make it Important:  Setting the environment and the stage to make the team members prepared for Agile retrospective is the first step.  The 2nd stage is to gather and analyze the data of previous projects to have insights in to previous actions. It helps to fix the quality benchmarks for specific tasks. The collected insights including facts & feelings are shared to help the team members address all the relevant issues in particular sprint retrospective as well as to find the most secure and effective way to proceed further.   The tasks are assigned with fixed responsibility to avoid any misunderstanding among the team members.   Each sprint retrospective ends with the acknowledgement and appreciation to contribution of each member.      The Five Agile - Sprint Retrospective Techniques to Deliver Better: 1. 4 Ls sprint Retrospective Technique:  The 4 Ls is a widely used data collecting technique for sprint retrospective involving the individuals to express their opinions independently on Post-Its or in group discussions.  The 4 Ls stand for:  Liked – Things you like Learned – Things you learn Lacked – Things that could be improved Longed for – Things you wish for 2. Speedboat Sprint Retrospective Technique:  The speedboat retrospective technique was first presented by Luke Hohmann in his book “Innovation Games”.  The project manager draws a speedboat on a chart representing the Agile team. The team members put their ideas on the Post-Its; which are connected with speedboat like anchors. The intention is to find out the hurdles refraining the team members to move fast to deliver at the time. Now, the solution-focused approach turns each anchor into the gust of wind; and, the team starts delivering as it should. 3. Speed Car Sprint Retrospective Technique: It is the simplest retrospective technique to identify the hurdles and supporting powers both.  The participants are asked to create post-its and place them over the ‘Engine’ and ‘Parachute’ of a speed car drawn on a chart. The post-its placed on the engine show the things that helped to perform and deliver; while, the post-its placed on the parachute show the things that slowed down the progress. The meeting ends with finding the solutions to each hurdle with the intention to apply the supporting forces in more areas.  4. Mad, Sad & Glad Sprint Retrospective Technique:  The participants are asked to create post-its in three different colors. The idea behind the exercise is to identify the things that made the participants feel mad, sad & glad during the sprint. The post-its under ‘Mad’ highlight the problems, time-wasting exercises, unexpected results/developments etc. The post-its under ‘Sad’ highlight the issues within the team that slowed down the progress. The post-its under ‘Glad’ highlight the issues like successes, learning, and achievements. The discussion helps the team leader to find out the viable solution to each highlighted issue. 5. KALM Sprint Retrospective Technique: The KALM stands for-  Keep - Something valuable you would love to repeat  Add- A new concept you would love to try. Less - Something being done already, and; you would like to do it less. More- Something being done already; and, you would like to give it more value.   The KALM retrospective technique stimulates the conversions over ongoing activities and perceived values.   Ensure the team follows up on retrospective actions or there’s no point capturing them in the first place #scrum #retrospective — John Leighton (@johnjleighton) May 8, 2018   Summary:  On being asked about the sprint meetings, the majority of Scrum Masters say that they simply ask- ‘What went well? ‘What didn’t work well?’ and ‘What can be improved?’.  The importance of sprint retrospective in Agile –Scrum project management lies in learning because it leads the team members towards- ‘what did we learn?’ The continuous monitoring for improvement is the fundamental of Agile project management; and, the sprint retrospective brightens the success prospects.
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Importance of Sprint Retrospective In Agile Project Management

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Importance of Sprint Retrospective In Agile Project Management

There is a buzz in the community of IT service providers and software developers about the terms like Agile software development, Agile project management, Agile transformation, Agile methodology, Agile adoption etc. After coming across encouraging Agile journey experiences within the industry, a number of software development companies are switching over to an Agile culture. Once the Agile teams achieve efficiency, the team members start missing some important steps well defined in Agile project management; one of those is ‘sprint retrospective’ – a very important Agile activity to improve the process, quality, client’s side satisfaction and profitability. 

What is Sprint Retrospective?

During the sprint retrospective, the entire team inspects the iteration and decides what can be done to improve the process. The outcomes of retrospective meetings are communicated to all the members; and, the suggestions are incorporated in the next iteration. It makes the retrospectives a never-to-miss exercise for short-cycled improvement and modification to varied circumstances. Here, I would refer “Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives – A Toolbox of Retrospective Exercises” written by Luis Gonçalves and Ben Linders. The ideal way to get the most of retrospective is to use the user stories describing ‘who, what & why’ for planning and tracking the improvements.

7 Key Benefits of Sprint Retrospectives: 

  1. It helps the support team to identify and resolve the conflict areas. 
  2. It helps the Agile team to improve the processes continuously by knowing ‘what can be improved’. 
  3. It allows all the members to share their views for improvement with the feel of ownership.
  4. It provides the roadmap for ‘start, stop doing & continue’. 
  5. It helps the project managers to keep the project on the right track by fixing the priorities and directions.
  6. It helps to identify the risk and problem factors at an early stage.
  7. It creates transparency and builds trust among the team members that strengthen the team spirit. 

5 Stages of Sprint Retrospective That Make it Important: 

Stages of sprint restrospectives

  1. Setting the environment and the stage to make the team members prepared for Agile retrospective is the first step. 
  2. The 2nd stage is to gather and analyze the data of previous projects to have insights in to previous actions. It helps to fix the quality benchmarks for specific tasks.
  3. The collected insights including facts & feelings are shared to help the team members address all the relevant issues in particular sprint retrospective as well as to find the most secure and effective way to proceed further.  
  4. The tasks are assigned with fixed responsibility to avoid any misunderstanding among the team members.  
  5. Each sprint retrospective ends with the acknowledgement and appreciation to contribution of each member.   
     

The Five Agile - Sprint Retrospective Techniques to Deliver Better:

1. 4 Ls sprint Retrospective Technique: 

The 4 Ls is a widely used data collecting technique for sprint retrospective involving the individuals to express their opinions independently on Post-Its or in group discussions.  The 4 Ls stand for: 

  • Liked – Things you like
  • Learned – Things you learn
  • Lacked – Things that could be improved
  • Longed for – Things you wish for

2. Speedboat Sprint Retrospective Technique: 

The speedboat retrospective technique was first presented by Luke Hohmann in his book “Innovation Games”.  The project manager draws a speedboat on a chart representing the Agile team. The team members put their ideas on the Post-Its; which are connected with speedboat like anchors. The intention is to find out the hurdles refraining the team members to move fast to deliver at the time. Now, the solution-focused approach turns each anchor into the gust of wind; and, the team starts delivering as it should.

Speedboat Sprint Retrospective Technique


3. Speed Car Sprint Retrospective Technique:

It is the simplest retrospective technique to identify the hurdles and supporting powers both.  The participants are asked to create post-its and place them over the ‘Engine’ and ‘Parachute’ of a speed car drawn on a chart. The post-its placed on the engine show the things that helped to perform and deliver; while, the post-its placed on the parachute show the things that slowed down the progress. The meeting ends with finding the solutions to each hurdle with the intention to apply the supporting forces in more areas. 

Speed Car Sprint Retrospective Technique

4. Mad, Sad & Glad Sprint Retrospective Technique: 

The participants are asked to create post-its in three different colors. The idea behind the exercise is to identify the things that made the participants feel mad, sad & glad during the sprint. The post-its under ‘Mad’ highlight the problems, time-wasting exercises, unexpected results/developments etc. The post-its under ‘Sad’ highlight the issues within the team that slowed down the progress. The post-its under ‘Glad’ highlight the issues like successes, learning, and achievements. The discussion helps the team leader to find out the viable solution to each highlighted issue.

5. KALM Sprint Retrospective Technique:

The KALM stands for- 

  • Keep - Something valuable you would love to repeat 
  • Add- A new concept you would love to try.
  • Less - Something being done already, and; you would like to do it less.
  • More- Something being done already; and, you would like to give it more value.  

The KALM retrospective technique stimulates the conversions over ongoing activities and perceived values.  

 

Summary: 

On being asked about the sprint meetings, the majority of Scrum Masters say that they simply ask- ‘What went well? ‘What didn’t work well?’ and ‘What can be improved?’.  The importance of sprint retrospective in Agile –Scrum project management lies in learning because it leads the team members towards- ‘what did we learn?’ The continuous monitoring for improvement is the fundamental of Agile project management; and, the sprint retrospective brightens the success prospects.

Shubhranshu

Shubhranshu Agarwal

Freelance content writer

Shubhranshu Agarwal is a technical writer with special interest in business management and project management subjects. Over the 15 years of freelance content writing, he has written a lot to help the industries, businesses and project managers to achieve the sustainable growth by implementing strategic critical management methodologies.
 

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In the largest enterprises, multiple instances of various SAFe®️ configurations may be required. Scaled agile framework core values  - SAFe®️  SAFe®️ is broad and deep and based on both Lean and Agile principles as its foundation.Importance of core valuesCore values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization.The core values are the guiding principles that speak behavior and action.Core values can help people to know what is right from wrong.It helps companies to determine whether they are working on the right path or not.SAFe®️ upholds four Core Values: alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution, as illustrated in Figure below and described in the following sections.1. AlignmentAlignment ensures that many people act as one unit or team, all pulling in the same direction. Alignment in SAFe®️ is achieved when everyone in the portfolio, and every team member on every ART, understand the strategy and the part they play in achieving it.SAFe®️ delivers alignment by orchestrating strategic themes, vision, roadmap, and PI planning. Economic prioritization and the visible flow of work through the various Kanban systems and backlogs provide visibility and transparency.2.Built-in QualityBuilt-in quality is one of the important core values of SAFe®️. The enterprise’s ability to deliver new functionality with the fastest sustainable lead time and to be able to react to rapidly changing business environments is dependent on solution quality. But built-in quality is not unique to SAFe®️. Rather, it is a core principle of the Lean-Agile mindset, where it helps avoid the cost of delays associated with recall, rework, and defect fixing. The Agile Manifesto is focused on quality as well: “Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.”The following sections summarize recommended practices for achieving built-in quality.SoftwareSAFe®️’s software quality practices—many of which are inspired by Extreme Programming (XP)— help Agile software teams ensure that the solutions they build are high quality and adaptable to change. The collaborative nature of these practices, along with a focus on frequent validation, creates an emergent culture in which engineering and craftsmanship are key business enablers. Test-Driven DevelopmentTest-Driven Development (TDD) is a philosophy and practice that recommends building and executing tests before implementing the code or a component of a system. By validating them against a series of agreed-to tests, TDD—an Agile Testing practice—improves system outcomes by assuring that the system implementation meets its requirements. TDD, along with Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), is part of the ‘test-first’ approach to Build Quality into development. Writing tests first creates a more balanced testing portfolio with many fast, automated development tests and fewer slow, manual, end-to-end tests. Acceptance Test Driven DevelopmentAcceptance Test Driven Development (ATDD) is a practice in which the whole team collaboratively discusses acceptance criteria, with examples, and then distills them into a set of concrete acceptance tests before development begins. It’s the best way to ensure that all have the same shared understanding of what it is we are building. It’s also the best way to ensure we have a shared definition of Done.Behavior-Driven DevelopmentBehavior Driven Development (BDD) is a Test-First, Agile Testing practice that provides Built-In Quality by defining (and potentially automating) tests before, or as part of, specifying system behavior. BDD is a collaborative process that creates a shared understanding of requirements between the business and the Development Team. Its goal is to help guide development, decrease rework, and increase flow. Without focusing on internal implementation, BDD tests are business-facing scenarios that attempt to describe the behavior of a Story, Feature, or Capability from a user’s perspective. When automated, these tests ensure that the system continuously meets the specified behavior even as the system evolves. That, in turn, enables Release on Demand. Automated BDD tests can also serve as the definitive statement regarding the as-built system behavior, replacing other forms of behavioral specifications.Continuous IntegrationThis is the practice of merging the code from each developer’s workspace into a single main branch of code, multiple times per day. This lessens the risk of deferred integration issues and their impact on system quality and program predictability. Teams perform local integration at least daily. But to confirm that the work is progressing as intended, full system-level integration should be achieved at least one or two times per iteration.RefactoringRefactoring is “a disciplined technique for restructuring an existing body of code, altering its internal structure without changing its external behavior.” A key enabler of emergent design, refactoring is essential to Agile. To maintain system robustness, teams continuously refactor code in a series of small steps, providing a solid foundation for future development.Pair WorkSome teams follow pair programming, but that may be too extreme for many. More generally, pair work may couple developers and testers on a story. Still, others prefer more spontaneous pairing, with developers collaborating for critical code segments, refactoring of legacy code, development of interface definition, and system-level integration challenges.HardwareHardware quality is supported by exploratory early iterations, frequent system-level integration, design verification, modeling, and set-based design. The Agile architecture supports software and hardware quality.1.System IntegrationDifferent components and subsystems—software, firmware, hardware, and everything else—must collaborate to provide effective solution-level behaviors. Practices that support solution-level quality include:Frequent system and solution-level integrationSolution-level testing of functional and Nonfunctional RequirementsSystem and Solution Demos2.ComplianceSAFe®️ enterprises that build high assurance systems define their approved practices, policies, and procedures in a Lean Quality Management System (QMS). These systems are intended to ensure that development activities and outcomes comply with all relevant regulations and quality standards, as well as providing the required documentation to prove it.3.TransparencyTransparency builds trust. Trust, in turn, is essential for performance, innovation, risk-taking, and relentless improvement. Trust exists when the business and development can confidently rely on another to act with integrity, particularly in times of difficulty. Without trust no one can build high-performance teams and programs, nor build (or rebuild) the confidence needed to make and meet reasonable commitments.  And without trust, working environments are a lot less fun and motivating.Here are few SAFe®️ practices which enable trust:ARTs have visibility into the team’s backlogs, as well as other Program Backlogs.Teams and programs commit to short-term, visible commitments that they routinely meet4. Program ExecutionSAFe®️ places an intense focus on working systems and business outcomes. History shows us that while many enterprises start the transformation with individual Agile teams, they often become frustrated as even those teams struggle to deliver more substantial amounts of solution value, reliably and efficiently. That is the purpose of the ART, and that is why SAFe®️ focuses implementation initially at the Program Level. In turn, the ability of Value Streams to deliver value depends on the ability of the ARTs and Solution Trains.ConclusionThe four Core Values of alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution represent the fundamental beliefs that are key to SAFe®️ effectiveness. These guiding principles help dictate behavior and action for everyone who participates in a SAFe®️ portfolio. Successful teams and programs implementing  SAFe®️ have aligned their organizations along these core values and getting many benefits—employee engagement, productivity, quality, and time to market. 
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