Jiva Technology

Retrospectives

One of the most under appreciated and under utilised aspects of the Agile Methodology is the retrospective. In coding, as in life, perspective generally comes not from furious activity, but from those moments of quiet reflection. It makes us better at what we do. Matt Jukes, Head of Digital Transformation (nice title Matt) at the Office of National Statistics has written a nice summary on the use of retrospectives at the ONS. Its worth reading.

Retrospectives are hard. Getting the balance right between learning from mistakes, establishing what actually went well and can be used again, avoiding finger pointing for mistakes or mutual back slapping if things went well is a very fine line to tread. If retrospectives are to have value, they need to incorporate what I’ve heard variously called live ammo or the unvarnished truth; either way it all sounds a bit painful, especially in critical projects.

There’s nothing special about the idea of a retrospective, its power lies in how you use it. Most good managers will either consciously or un consciously utilise some form of the GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Wrap-up) method with their team, but most people feel a bit uncomfortable ‘saying it how it is’ and cloud their feedback in woolly words that are so opaque they lose their power. Amazon is famously ferocious in feedback to staff; its seen as a critical component of their success and an important part of individual career development.

Perhaps its time to take those retrospectives seriously.

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