Retrospectives are one of the most widely used of the agile practices yet they

are also one of the most poorly executed.

If one had to choose a single agile practice to adopt first, which practice

would help us bootstrap/discover all the others. Retrospectives!



What are we trying to get out of retrospectives?

How do we determine whether or they are proving effective?



The effectiveness of our retrospectives can only be assessed by examining how

much they improve our process.

Starting with the end in mind:

A good retrospective should result in one (sometimes more) concrete experiment

to run in the upcoming sprint/iteration/xxx. Everyone in the team should have

agreed to this experiment.

How to get there:

Identify the points of pain using some sort of brainstorming.

Classify the pain points on the scale "Under our control" <–> "Outside of our

Control" (optional)

Pick the biggest pain point to address using something like dot-voting.

Brainstrom possible changes to the process to address the pain point.

Classify the solutions on the scale "Something we could start tomorrow" <–>

"Would require a lot of prerequiste work before we could start"

Choose the solution to try out using consensus and/or dot-voting.

Design the process experiment (Hypothesis, Apparatus)

Get everyone's agreement to try the experiment for one sprint.

Followup During the Sprint:

There should be reminders posted about the process change experiment.

Everyone should constantly ask themselves whether they are doing their work in

the new, agreed-upon way.

Followup During next Retrospective:

We start by reviewing the experiment that we agreed to do.

How well did it work?

What were the advantages?

What were the drawbacks?

Should we adopt it as part of the baseline process as-is?

Or should we propose some changes to it and run a new experiment?

Or should we abandon it entirely?

Gerard Meszaros

Lean/Agile Coach/Mentor/Trainer


Author of the Jolt Productivity Award winning book "xUnit Test Patterns – Refactoring Test Code" and winner of the "Programming with the Stars" competition at Agile 2009. Learn more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *