Retrospectives Antipatterns

The idea Retrospective has existed nearly perpetually, however not at all times
with that title. So long as people have existed we have now regarded again at an
exercise collectively, to attempt to study from it. After a hunt, after a delivery,
after a recreation, after surgical procedure, and so on.

Norman Kerth was the primary to call it “Retrospective” within the IT world,
in his ebook: Project Retrospectives – a Handbook for Team Reviews from
2001. He described a proper technique for preserving the precious classes
discovered from the successes and failures of each venture. With detailed
eventualities, imaginative illustrations and step-by-step directions, this
ebook began my journey as a retrospective facilitator. I beloved the concept
and I started implementing it, first in my very own workforce, then in different groups and
later, exterior my group. The actions “Prime Directive”,
“Creating a Time Line”, “I’m Too Busy” and different actions are from
his ebook.

Later, Diana Larsen and Esther Derby wrote the ebook: Agile
Retrospectives – Making Good Teams Great
. This launched shorter
retrospectives that might match into agile processes. This was a recreation
changer for me. Their ebook helped me to plan shorter, extra environment friendly
retrospectives, but additionally comprises instruments for the facilitator that helped me
with the precise strategy of planning the retrospectives in a extra environment friendly

Earlier than Norm Kerth’s ebook, we solely knew about post-mortems. These are
longer reflections performed after one thing has gone fallacious. Submit-mortems
are very helpful as a instrument for studying from errors. Carried out proper, they’ll
have a therapeutic impact on the folks concerned, however aren’t the identical as
retrospectives. We do retrospectives, even when issues are going properly. This
is why the subtitle of Derby Larsen’s ebook is “- making good groups

However, my sensible expertise with retrospectives additionally confirmed me how
simply a retrospective may be inefficient. When you don’t observe the concept of
a retrospective and solely undergo the motions, you’ll waste time. Due
to the recognition of agile methodologies, retrospectives have change into very
widespread. This success has change into an issue for retrospectives. Everybody
has to have them, however they don’t spend the time to discover ways to
facilitate them in the proper manner. This has led to many unconstructive, and
typically even dangerous, retrospectives. When folks declare that
retrospectives are a waste of time, I usually agree with them, after I hear
how they do it. After some years I began to note patterns in what went
fallacious, additionally within the ones facilitated by me.

A narrative from Denmark

A corporation had determined to be extra agile of their manner of growing
software program. As part of that they launched retrospectives as a way to
study. Among the workforce members felt that the retrospectives had been “within the
manner” of “actual” work. They urged that they might be shorter than the 90
minutes booked for them. For the reason that facilitator was not very skilled in
retrospectives, she determined to simply accept.

To spend as little time as attainable, they shortened them down. This had
many detrimental penalties. Allow us to deal with one right here, an anti-pattern I
name Wheel of Fortune. In a real-world wheel of fortune you typically
get a prize, and typically you lose. Profitable or dropping is random, and also you
aren’t doing something to enhance the percentages. This will occur in a workforce’s
retrospective as properly.

The facilitator determined to make use of the favored “Begin, Cease, Proceed”
exercise to collect information. However to save lots of time, they skipped producing
insights, which is one in all the 5 phases of a retrospective. As an alternative they
jumped from gathering the information to deciding what to begin doing, what to
cease doing, and what to proceed doing.

For this exercise, the facilitator put up three posters, one with the
phrase “Begin”, one with “Cease”, and one with “Proceed”. She then requested the
workforce to put in writing post-it notes and stick them on the posters. One of many
notes learn “Begin pair programming”, one other “Cease having so many
conferences”. The workforce might create motion factors out of those: “Three hours
of pair programming, three days per week”. And “no conferences on Wednesdays
and by no means conferences after lunch”. And in 20 minutes, the retrospective was

This manner of holding a retrospective can have dire penalties. If the
post-it notes solely present options to signs, not the precise issues,
you’ll be able to solely repair the floor. Maybe the rationale for the workforce not having
pair programming just isn’t that they overlook, however that there’s not sufficient
psychological security. On this case, pushing them to schedule it within the
calendar is not going to assist. Both they may nonetheless not do it, or they may do
it and folks will really feel uncomfortable and depart the workforce, and even the

One other trigger for not having pair programming, might be that they do
not know how you can do it in a distant setting. Once more, this can be a downside that
just isn’t solved by placing pair programming within the calendar.

The identical applies to the be aware about conferences. The issue with the
conferences may be the standard and never the amount. In that case, having
fewer conferences is not going to remedy the issue, solely make it much less apparent. When
groups ask for fewer conferences, it’s usually improved assembly hygiene that
can remedy the actual downside.

Wheel of Fortune

When a workforce “solves” signs as an alternative of issues, the issues will
nonetheless be there, and they’ll present up once more. As in an actual Wheel of
they may get fortunate. Maybe a number of the issues they remedy may
have been the actual issues. However usually we solely see the signs and we
rush to ‘options’ that don’t tackle root causes. The result’s that
even these quick retrospectives really feel like a waste of time, as a result of it’s a
waste of time to debate and react solely to signs.

An anti-pattern will need to have a refactored resolution, an outline
of an answer that’s higher than the antipattern resolution. On this case,
the refactored resolution is to ensure to generate insights earlier than you
determine what to do. Earlier than you leap to conclusions. You are able to do this with a
easy dialogue concerning the points that come up. Or with a “5 whys” interview. If it seems to be like a fancy downside,
a fishbone analysis may be helpful.
Examples of complicated issues are “lacking a deadline”, or “not following
the peer overview course of”. Said like this, they sound easy, however the
quick description hides a complexity: These issues can have many
completely different causes.

Within the Soup

On the subsequent retrospective one other antipattern confirmed up. The workforce
needed to debate the influence of the awful software program their distributors
supplied them with. The standard of this was a relentless downside
for the workforce. Their very own software program techniques had been tremendously affected
by this, and so they had tried to escalate the issue to
administration. The workforce had mentioned this earlier than, many occasions. Each
time they mentioned it, they obtained pissed off and unhappy and nothing modified.
It made the retrospectives really feel like a waste of time, as a result of it was a
waste of time to debate issues they might not change. That is an instance
of the antipattern Within the Soup.

If you end up within the soup, you’re spending time on stuff you can not
enhance. As an alternative of studying about and enhancing the problems you’re able
to vary.

The refactored resolution is to make use of an exercise referred to as Within the Soup,
the place you ask the workforce to divide the issues they’re discussing into
issues they’ll do one thing about, issues they’ll affect, and issues
which are within the soup. When issues are within the soup, they’re part of life
that you simply can not change. Your time is best spent accepting and discovering a
strategy to adapt to the scenario. Or altering your scenario by eradicating
your self from the soup. You should utilize this exercise proper after you may have
gathered information as proven beneath. Or you need to use it if you determine what to do
so as to not depart the retrospective with motion factors that aren’t in
your energy to implement.

In the Soup activity               during Gather Data

Determine 1:
Issues we are able to do, issues we are able to affect, issues which are in
the soup.


On this workforce they now know how you can focus their time on the issues they
can change, and so they have discovered how invaluable it’s to spend time on
producing insights. However they nonetheless have one downside. They’ve a
Loudmouth within the workforce. In all of the discussions within the retrospectives
(and in all different conferences) this loudmouth interrupts and tells lengthy
tales and makes it unattainable for different workforce members to participate. The
facilitator tries to ask different workforce members to talk up, however issues do
not change.

This antipattern is one thing that’s usually discovered, however it’s not onerous
to resolve. The very first thing to pay attention to is why it’s a downside. Some
folks may say that if somebody has one thing to say, then they need to be
allowed to say it, and I agree. However for a retrospective, the time is about
apart for a workforce to share, respect and study collectively. And if solely
a part of the workforce is in a position to do this, the time could also be partly wasted.

The refactored resolution for a workforce with a loudmouth is to remain away
from plenary discussions. As an alternative divide folks into smaller teams, or
even pairs, to debate topics. You can too introduce extra writing and
transferring of post-its as an alternative of talking. It could possibly even be useful to speak
to the loudmouth after the retrospective. They may not concentrate on the
impact they’ve on others, and infrequently they’re very grateful to study this
about themselves. I’ve labored with loudmouths that discovered it modified extra
elements of their lives to pay attention to this tendency. Some individuals are what
we name “lively thinkers”, and they should discuss or do one thing to suppose.
Clearly they must be loud when they’re pondering, however there is no such thing as a
hurt meant by it.

On this article you may have been launched to 3 of the most typical
antipatterns in retrospective facilitation, and also you now have some
suggestions and tips on how you can keep away from to be caught in one in all them. However
do not forget that a very powerful ability a facilitator can have is
to not know loads of actions by
coronary heart, however to hear, to make use of their mind to de-escalate battle
and to proceed to mirror and study what works
for them.