This is the 2nd blog in the series “Retrospective Benefits”, which focuses on the business value that you can get out of agile retrospectives. The 1st blog showed how a team can efficiently do their improvement actions, this blog explains how team benefit from retrospectives by finding those improvement actions that matter to them, and help them to do their work better. You can read more about the benefits of retrospectives in my book about Valuable Agile Retrospectives.
You probably remember a time when your company announced another improvement program. It would address the business needs, and solve major problems that the company was facing. And you probably wondered if it would solve your problems? And if so, how it intended to do that? In stead of waiting for some improvement program, why not use agile retrospectives to take control of your own improvement journey? Solve the problem that hamper you and your team, that you consider important to solve! One of the benefits of agile retrospectives is that they give you the power to do it!
Many large improvement programs fail. Not because of the people who manage them. They are often capable and know how to manage change. And they have assured management commitment and funding. But what they are lacking is buy in from “the workforce”, from the people in the projects and teams. This is where retrospectives take a significantly different approach, as they are owned and done by the agile team. They decide where and how they change their way of working, in stead of having it dictated by managers or quality/process people. And yes, you can get business value out of agile retrospectives. Just show the team what the company is aiming at, and let them decide how to contribute to it.
Teams lead their own improvement journey
Retrospectives empower the team to control their own destiny. They use them to solve problems that the team consider to be the biggest hurdles. They can improve at their own pace, do as little or as much that they consider possible.
Managers should enable and support teams in doing retrospectives. They expect their teams to improve, but it is up to the team what they improve and what they decide not to improve (now). A manager must respect the judgement of their employees, and rely on their professionalism to have them manage their own journey.
If they need people outside the team, like their manager or any support department then it is up to them to involve them. The team should make clear what they expect and why, and how the things they need to have done help the team. Also they should check their expectations, are they something that there manager or support department is able and willing to do? It important to know what is possible and to have that done, and prevent any false expectations.
Example: how coaches and facilitators can help teams to improve
One organization that I worked with had several coaches that supported the Scrum teams on improving themselves. There was a group of skilled retrospective facilitators that teams could ask to run their retrospective (or they could have one of their own team members do it, up to them). The facilitator would take the team needs as a starting point, and use an appropriate technique to come to improvement actions that help the team.
The agile coaches helped the team with regular self assessments, enabling them to become more agile and lean. The team could see how they are progressing on their agile journey, and decide what would be their next step. The agile coaches and retrospective facilitators both reported to management about the overall progress of the agile transition, and on any common issues that they saw in multiple team. They also advised management on things that they could do to help the teams to improve their performance. They didn’t report on individual teams, unless specifically requested by a team. In such cases they did it together with the team members and managers, to find solutions for the problems that the team wanted to solve.
Finding those improvement actions that matter!
The fact that the team owns the agile retrospective brings major benefits to them. It helps them to focus where they see the need to improve, to solve issues that hamper their progress and to become a stronger team. Agile retrospectives give the power to the team, where it belongs!