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Don't Sit On Your Ideas…

5 Factors to Retrospect after Every Sprint while Developing a Product

Khyati SehgalKhyati Sehgal

The essence of agile is to thrive for continuous improvement through empirical process control. True agile teams find ways to improve through experimentation, finding sustainability, and delivering business value earlier. It is a never-ending journey, and a sprint retrospective emerges as an opportunity to further accelerate this improvement process. It is a great time to allocate and analyse extraneous factors in detail, which otherwise may distract the team’s focus. In this post, we highlight 5 factors which every agile team should retrospect after each sprint. Let’s have a look.

retrospective_cartoon

Factors to Retrospect after Every Sprint:

  1. What Went Well in the Last Sprint? This can be determined only after evaluating the answers to various questions like –

    Was the expected work completed during the sprint under review?
    Did the team organize daily standups?
    How effective were these in solving challenges?
    Were there any change requests?
    If yes, were they handled efficiently?

    If everything went well, most of these questions will have positive responses. If not, the scrum master will need to oversee the areas where the team is lagging.
  2. Were Previous Commitments Met? Reviewing previous commitments is as important as knowing what went well. And this should be ideally followed by a discussion about whether the team could successfully meet those commitments. David Starr, Chief Software Craftsman for Scrum.org, writes in one of his features, “If this discussion isn’t part of each Sprint Retrospective, attendees soon learn their commitments don’t matter, and they’ll stop meeting them.”

  3. What Needs Improvement? During this part of retrospective the scrum master evaluates the responsibilities assigned to the team, checks the goals which have been met and marks areas which need improvement. This enables the team to understand where they are lagging and how they can cover up. This is the part of the session where the Scrum Master needs to act more like a mentor.

  4. Is anything Obstructing Team’s Performance? Did the team face some challenges? If yes, were they because of some physical limitations like unavailability of resources or because there was a gap in understanding the scope. Whatever the reason be, this part of the retrospective is an opportunity to voice their concerns and get them sorted.

  5. What Changes can be Brought About in the Definition of Done? According to David, Definition of Done is used “to note what must be true about their work before it is considered complete. For example, the team’s Definition of Done may state that all code must be peer reviewed.” After each sprint, the team learns something new. The retrospective is a great platform to highlight these lessons and see how they can be used to change/update the Definition of Done.

    sprint_retrospective[1]

Tips to Conduct a Better Retrospective

Knowing which factors to address during a sprint retrospective helps, but knowing how to conduct an effective retrospective session is even better. So we’ve compiled some tips to help you retrospect a sprint better.

  1. Aim at Problem Solving: Identifying issues is a good plan, but not as good as making actionable commitments. Actionable commitments have defined steps of completion and an agreed acceptance criteria. Following are good examples of actionable commitments:
    – Check in code at least two times a day
    – List new backlog items as user stories and change acceptance criteria accordingly

  2. Keep it Relevant: The retrospectives must hold some meaning for the participants, that is how they become useful. If the whole discussion is concentrated on a single agenda and is driven by single authority, the team will stop taking responsibility of its work. It is important to visit topics which are of interest to all levels of expertise. And the focus should be on the Scrum Team and not on an individual. This will help the team realize the benefits of a retrospective.

  3. Vary the Techniques: Scrum Masters should try approaching each retrospective using a different technique. These various techniques keeps development interesting and fresh. Though most Scrummasters are aware of this, we have listed the most famous ones below:
    – 6 Thinking Hats Retrospective
    – Appreciative Retrospective
    – Strengths-Based Retrospective
    – Top 5 Retrospective
    – Complexity Retrospective
    – Each One Meets All

Conclusion:

Are sprint retrospectives mandatory? No! Absolutely not. But neither is delivering quality products in a promised time frame, and nor is survival. On a serious note, you can’t really go wrong with retrospective sessions. As Dave Ardent, an agile expert, says in a LinkedIn discussion, “If it happens that there is not much to say then the process (retrospection) won’t take long, so there’s nothing to lose, but possibly valuable things to gain.”

What do you think about retrospectives? Is there a particular technique you favor? Do let us know in the comments section below. And to know more about agile development methodology and practices, downloading VenturePact outsourcing ebook is a good idea!

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Khyati is a technology expert at VenturePact, helping businesses find premium software firms to develop their products and scale their teams. If you have any questions about outsourcing your next technology project Khyati is happy to help.