Monday, April 15, 2013

Don't Miss Sprint Retrospectives!

It may seem just to skip Sprint Retrospectives, especially when there is “work to be done,” but like all scrum milestones retrospectives must be executed to realize the maximum value of the scrum framework. They contribute to self-organization, team building, reenergizing, and the socialization of issues.

Scrum is a framework for managing chaos, and sprint retrospectives, an empirical process improvement tool, improve the management of chaos. Scrum founding member Mike Beedle explains, “the purpose of [the sprint retrospective] is to improve the development process, and make it more effective and enjoyable for the next sprint. The dimensions of what went right or wrong are people, relationships, process and tools.”

Sprint Retrospectives spark insight, and have an enlightening atmosphere. Perhaps it's the basking in successes of the just finished sprint, the chance of lifting the weight of issues that have been bothering team members, recalling “Ah-Ha” moments, or strengthening of the process overall.

After the 10th retrospective its understandable if feel all the benefits of the sprint retrospective have been acquired. However, chances are even if you’re unenthusiastic about the retrospective, one of your team members has been waiting for this scheduled opportunity to share their thoughts. It is possible that your retrospectives decrease in duration over time, but each sprint retrospective is unique. Changing team dynamics, events, projects, stages of a project, and experiences contribute to the evolution of sprint retrospective benefits over time.

Would you like your team to get more done? Take sprint retrospective time to enjoy space, relax, eat pizza (drink beers), joke around, and reenergize. “We cannot add hours to our day, but we can add energy,” explain Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy of the energy project. Retrospectives provide breathing room for teams who have been working hard. “One of the best ways of adding energy is increasing passion,” explains Mike Cohn in Succeeding with Agile. “The more passionate people are about their projects, the more likely they are to fully engage on them each day.” Increase teams’ passion by providing ownership through retrospectives. All team members have the opportunity to share successes, address issues, give praise, identify ah-ha moments, and provide hypotheses for the next sprint.

At best cutting corners (skipping meetings) of the scrum process leads to bleeding of benefits, at worst, disorientation and room for chaos (in its many forms) to take the reigns of your project. Every scrum milestone contributes to organizing and reinforcing the social fabric of the team. Don’t skip sprint retrospectives!

P.S. If you’re using Trello (amazing tool!) for managing projects, you may find this Sprint Retrospective Template useful!