Sprint retrospectives are an amazing tool for teams. They foster a culture of continuous improvement and hold the team accountable for making improvements. However, when you look at Scrum beyond a single team, the power of sprint retrospectives becomes diluted. Often there are areas that the team would like to see improved that are beyond its control.
Every few sprints, we run a retrospective that encourages the team to look outside of itself for improvements. We then capture those improvements into an organizational improvement backlog that is reviewed and prioritized by our Project Management Office team and executive management. We review that backlog with all the teams regularly.
Here is the format that we use for our Big Picture retrospectives:
Step 1: Set the scope.
Ask your team to imagine the best organization for a team member.
Step 2: Generate ideas.
Use your favorite retrospective game to gather ideas for improvement at the organization level. My favorites to use: Mad, Sad, Glad; 4Ls; and Sailboat.
Step 3: Determine the organizational level.
Create areas on your workspace for each level of your organization. We use team, division, and organization, but every organization is unique, so choose the spheres of influence that work best for your organization.
Have the team organize each issue into the area that they believe owns it.
Step 4: Create or update the improvement backlog.
After you have discussed and organized all the issues, you are ready to add those issues to your organizational improvement backlog. Just like with product features, it is not enough to just add the items to the backlog. To help the improvement backlog's product owner prioritize the backlog, it is important for the team to give a business value to each item.
Step 5: Sprint to improve.
Gather together your improvement team and start pulling items from your backlog!
Step 6: Review your progress.
When your improvement team's sprint is done, review your progress with all the teams.
Step 7: Retrospect your improvement team's process.
Even your improvement team can continuously improve its process for making improvements.
When your whole team is committed to continuous improvement, the results are amazing. By using the same tools we use to create software to improve our process, we can create a culture of agility and continuous improvement.