Get certified - Transform your world of work today


Team Reflection

29 November 2013

Bob Jiang

"The unexamined life is not worth living," Socrates said. It is true for the individual, but it also applies to a team. If a team carries on no self-inspection, they cannot know where they are or how to achieve great success.

Recently I read a book named Agile Retrospectives, written by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen. In this book they mention a specific structure for a team's reflection and adaptation:
  • Set the stage.
  • Gather data.
  • Generate insights.
  • Decide what to do.
  • Close the retrospective.
I found this structure very useful for facilitating a team's retrospective. I will describe a little more about each step.

Set the stage

This step is to warm up or make the environment safe, and then everyone can engage in the meeting. There are also some other aims in this step:
  • Establish focus for meeting
  • Safe environment
  • Shared goal
There are some activities lists for this step, such as check-in, focus on/off, and working agreement. Actually, for check-in there are many types of activities and needs, including ice-breaking skills.

Gather data (refer to ORID model: This step is for O and R).

Discussion is based on fact, not opinion. So we need to collect all data, objective and subjective. The objective ones include events, metrics, features, or completed stories. Subjective ones include emotions, feelings, etc. By gathering data, the team can create a shared picture about what happened, which can eliminate misunderstandings.

Generate insights (I).

After gathering data, the team needs to find out the root cause behind the data. It means we need to discover the "why" part. It is easy to skip this step and jump into solutions. Why do we need this step? Sometimes when we come to an idea, it may be right solution, but often it isn't, so we need to have group discussion/wisdom to brainstorm more solutions/ideas. In this step, the team can go back to visit the first 3 steps to gain more information.

Decide what to do (D).

A thousand miles begin from one inch. It is good thing that we have data and insights about why something happened, but that is nothing without action. Now it is time to describe how to achieve our goal. Remember, every action should have an owner and date. (Have a try with SMART rules for this.)

Close the retrospective

Close the retrospective with an appreciation or a mini-retrospective meeting. Look at what went well and what we could do differently next time. "Inspect and adapt" applies everywhere.

This is the picture from Agile Retrospectives, but I believe it is not only applied to software development. We can assume it is our daily work/operations in the left circle, and it is our team reflection on right side.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 4.5 (2 ratings)


Glen Wang, CSM, 12/4/2013 9:08:33 PM
In 2003, Esther Derby and Diana Larsen were bestowed with the title Retrospective Goddesses at the annual Retrospective Facilitators Gathering in Baden, Austria. It’s not every day you get to read a book written by a pair of goddesses! Although they don’t really claim divinity, they do know lots about helping teams learn together in retrospectives. Having a mental picture of how you’ll respond gives you more options in the moment. So, think of the outburst that scares you the most, and mentally rehearse using one of these strategies. Outbursts are unsettling, but they don’t have to derail the process. If you think you could never do something like this, remember that one of the Retrospective Goddesses started out as a programmer.
Gurpreet Singh, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 12/6/2013 4:43:53 AM
Hi Bob,

Super nice article! I really loved the Gather Date part. Honestly, it is the toughest if the team is not mature enough or the environment is not "Agile-friendly".

Keep blogging!

You must Login or Signup to comment.

The community welcomes feedback that is constructive and supportive, in the spirit of better understanding and implementation of Scrum.


Newsletter Sign-Up