Techniques: Retrospectives

Techniques: Retrospectives

Most of us think of Retrospectives in association with the Delivery Horizon, but they also can be used during the Initiative Horizon.

Retrospectives are used to continuously improve by reflecting on what went well, what could be better, and to improve the processes.

Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.14

The word Retrospective, as you know, means “looking back on or dealing with past events or situations.”  Or “a generally comprehensive exhibition, compilation, or performance of the work of an artist over a span of years.”

In other words, looking back at what and how work has been produced.

Why would we do that?  In Agile, we do that “to improve the process”

This is not to improve what has been delivered.  It is to improve how we work toward delivering it.  That is a key element many misunderstand about Retrospectives.


Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.14
  • Some elements of Retrospectives are action items from previous retros.  This will be used to discuss whether that action item was actually addressed and whether it helped.
  • The team prepares it’s ideas for what went well and what can be improved.
  • There is a safety check – the team needs to be courageously honest about the teams performance and processes.
  • Then the team shares their thoughts on what went well, what can improve, and other areas of interest.
  • Finally the team decides what actions it will take and who will be responsible for them, along with the timeline.  This will be recorded and reviewed at the next retro.


Agile Extension to the BABOK®  Guide – section 7.14

Retros are used in both Initiative and Delivery Horizon, usually aligned with the end of an iteration or release.

As mentioned, the intent is to celebrate accomplishments and improve how the team operates.

It is important to not just focus on areas to improve, but also what is going well. 

This is my guidance, not from the Extension.  Some Agile frameworks include Retros as one if their “Ceremonies.”  These are intended to be just that – a ceremony – celebrating success and inspiring improvement.

The Context is Communication and the audience is the Internal Team

Usage Considerations

This is where the team has it’s voice on how it operates, which is one of the strengths of Retrospectives.  The team is empowered to be self governing.

Retros allow issues to be addressed early and frequently.

However, trust must be there for these to work.  And action items are only valuable if they are really addressed.

One interesting observation from the Extension is that mature teams don’t wait for a retro to address issues, but do so as they arise so that morale and motivation is unaffected by issues.

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