Bringing Visibility to Retrospective Action Items

I’m a big fan of the Retrospective. I think it’s so important to take time to look back and reflect on how things have been going, and think about how to make things better on your team. There are heaps of different kinds of retrospectives for different occasions and to enable you look at your from lots of different angles.

Regular retrospectives will open up great communication between team members and make it easier to talk about issues and successes.

However, you can’t reap the full benefits of retrospectives if nothing changes afterwards. If the team feels like they are losing an hour of their lives to retrospect and then nothing happens they aren’t going to be keen to have one again.

Some things that I think are important:

  • Retrospectives should happen regularly. Every 1-2 weeks AT LEAST. ¬†More than that and the feedback cycle is too long, the retrospective will likely take hours because so much stuff has built up.
  • Keep them energetic, change up the format often and get different team members to facilitate and take ownership.
  • Keep them constructive, follow the prime directive and ensure that there are action items that have owners and are achievable.

I recently joined a team that was feeling quite disillusioned with their retrospectives. They were every 3-4 weeks, and the same issues came up time and time again. Nothing was changing and the team was frustrated. On my second day on the team we had a session and everyone was grumbling before we had even started, that it was pointless. It broke my heart.

I felt like there was a massive lack of visibility to the items that had come up, no ownership and no follow-up.

So I got hold of the items that had come up and created a Retrospectives Action Items board that lists all of the action items, their owners and equally as importantly, which ones we have actually achieved so that the team can see that we are making headway.

This board lives next to the story wall where we hold standup so that we can talk about the items every few days, see progress (or lack there of) and provide a friendly reminder. (My crafting skills pale in insignificance compared to some of my past team mates, so sorry about that!)

  • Ensure the whole team can see the action items and who’s responsible for making each one happen.
  • Regularly bring action items up and check progress during standup, remove any blockers if necessary.
  • Celebrate the items that do get done.

So far this has worked pretty well. I already feel there is a better energy and things are changing as a result of our last retrospective. Next mission, get them to happen much more often!


Moving again…

Today is my first day back in the London ThoughtWorks office since I started here nearly 4 years ago. I have just transferred back here from the Chicago ThoughtWorks office.

It’s pretty crazy being back in the UK. I’ve been away for over 3 years now, and much longer since I lived in England proper. It took me a few days to figure out which way to look while crossing the road, how to use chip and pin payment and that left over coins actually are worth something so I should figure out what they all are. People may think that I’m crazy but I missed the food here too…

I’m quite the nomad at heart, and Chicago (at 2 years) is the longest that I’ve lived anywhere since I was 16. So it was time to move on. Tim spent time at TW UK 3 years ago and loves London and I am new here!

One of the great things about TW is that you have the opportunity to move around. So far London, Calgary, Chicago and now back to London. My TW network is ever growing and it’s nice to bump into people I know all over the world, and pretty much everyone I meet knows someone that I know, so it’s normally easy to start up a conversation.

I was quite sad leaving Chicago, I’ve made some great friends and have really come along professionally too. It almost feels like I’m starting a new school coming to TW UK. However it’s been great to spend some more time already with the other half, as right now I’m not travelling every week, and I look forward to making lots of new friends and exploring London.

My first project will have me commuting to Sutton (Surrey) every day, so I’m hoping that will give me more time for blogging and reading etc. that I really missed while driving to Peoria once a week.

Hopefully we’ve found a place to live. Pictures will come once we’ve moved in. We’ll be in the Angel Islington area.