Project Management

10 Tips for Effective Agile Retrospectives

PMI Durham Highlands Chapter

Kevin Aguanno is the agile practice lead for Procept Associates Ltd., one of PMI’s first Registered Education Providers, specializing in training and project and programme strategy consulting. Author of over 30 books, audiobooks and DVDs on project management topics, he teaches agile methods at several universities and at conferences around the world. He spends most of his time helping large, complex organizations integrate agile project management methods into their governance frameworks.

Agile practitioners generally agree that regular retrospectives throughout the project are a good practice; however, many are not seeing the full benefits from the practice. In this article, I am going to share a number of tips on how to perform retrospectives effectively—getting the maximum value from this important agile process.

What is a retrospective?
“Retrospective” is a combination of two Latin root words: “retro” (backwards) and “spectare” (to look). A retrospective is an event wherein one reflects upon the past.

In an agile context, this is a ceremony during which team members look back on the past and capture lessons learned that can be used to improve upon future performance. Classically called a “lessons learned” activity, the practice is really a continuous improvement process, finding its scientific beginnings in the 1920s work of Walter Shewhart. Later, the Japanese mastered the concept, culminating in the lean practice of kaizen.

Regardless of where it found its roots, the retrospective is a key contributor to the high levels of efficiency and productivity that can be achieved on agile projects.

Tip 1: Hold a retrospective after every iteration. If a retrospective is a form of “continuous improvement,” then it must be performed continuously; that is, to get the maximum benefits of …

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"We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it - and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore."

- Mark Twain