On an agile project a few years back I got to experience first hand the retrospective. The project ran one of these at the end of each iteration and it was an easy going meeting over a beer last thing on the Friday. More as an observer I found it to be an effective meeting where concerns were able to be raised in a constructive manner. It was also good to be able to see the effect these meetings had on behaviours on the project with issues in one retrospective becoming a pro in a future one.
On the migration project that I have been working on we hit a junction going from Part A of the project to Part B. I wanted a way to check in with the team and get some feedback on how thing were going. A retrospective format session seemed like the right way to do this. The first challenge I had, was coming up with the right questions to ask, after much searching I settled on the following:
- What one aspect of this project would you keep unchanged?
- What one aspect of this project would you change if you could?
We ran the meeting going around the room with each person having to provide an answer to the question being asked. This was to ensure an equal contribution from everyone on the team. We went around the room twice for each question to get a minimum of 2 answers to each question from each team member. After the two times around the room we opened it to the floor for other suggestions.
One criterion I imposed as we weren’t to solve the problem just raise them in this forum. Unfortunately we have a tendency to want to solve every problem. Keeping it to just raising an aspect we were able to keep the session to 60 minutes.
Coming out of the meeting it wasn’t necessary to have a follow-up meeting and develop a 10 point plan to address all of the issues blah blah blah. A retrospective is good in that it provides a check point to look back (retrospectively) at part of the project and get different opinions on how it went. Just taking the time to hear everyone’s thoughts causes a change in behaviour. Doing it as a one-off probably hasn’t caused a huge change compared to doing it weekly or fortnightly but feedback as been positive.
Most waterfall project I have been on do post-implementation reviews (PIRs) the problem with them is that they are usually after the event. It would be good to find a way to incorporate the retrospective into a project while it was running. This may be a challenge for the next project I am on.