Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby & Diana Larsen

agile retrospectivesI want to share a synopsis of an incredibly powerful book providing a framework and guide for good agile retrospectives.  Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great (2006) by Esther Derby & Diana Larsen.  The book provides a five step process for agile retrospectives:

  • Set the Stage
    • Welcome: appreciation for everyone’s time and effort
    • Retrospective Prime Directive: “Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.”
    • “Check-In” — when someone doesn’t speak at the beginning of a retro, they have tacit permission to not speak for the rest of the session
      • Ask for everyone to share something positive.
      • OR, Ask for a word or two describing:
        • What is your hope for the retro?
        • What are your feelings about the sprint?
        • What is happening for you right now?
        • What is one thing that’s on your mind?
      • OR, use a metaphor. Coming into this retro, if you were a ____ what kind of _____ would you be?
      • As the facilitator, refrain from offering evaluative to comments (say “thank you” instead of “good” or “wonderful”)
    • Post team Values and Working Agreements (review and update if needed) Ask team to monitor during the retro, let SM focus on facilitating
    • Goals for the Retro: define and share. Try something new often. Don’t let the goal get stale! Examples:
      • “Find ways to improve our practices”
      • “Discover what we were doing well”
      • “Understand reasons behind missed targets”
      • “Find ways to improve our responsiveness to customers”
      • “Rebuild damaged relationships”
    • Format
    • Try something new often (ideas in Appendix)
  • Gather Data
    • Start with hard data: events, metrics, or features
    • Facts and Feelings
  • Generate Insights
    • Examine conditions, interactions, and patterns
    • See the big picture
    • Delve into root causes (why?)
    • Find Patterns
  • Decide What to Do
    • A3s needed to go forward?
    • Select one Kaizen with acceptance tests, and put in top of backlog
    • Experiment Format (from Jason Little):
      • We hypothesize by <implementing this change>
      • We will <solve this problem>
      • Which will have <these benefits>
      • As measured by <this measurement>
    • Close the Retrospective
      • “Check-Out” — Everyone speaks
        • What did you learn?
        • What do you hope for next time?
      • Make a record of highlights
      • Retro the Retro:
        • Fist of Fives. What can we do better?

Based on this book, and pulling from several other sources, including workshops with different techniques, I have put together an Agile Retrospectives Workbook full of ideas for every stage of the retrospective.  I hope you find it useful.


Until the Next Iteration . . .



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