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.
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.