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Continuous Retrospective

The hidden kaizen effect

24 May 2016

Abhijeet Verma
Softcell Technologies Ltd.

The culture of learning germinates at the moment an Agile team realizes its shortcomings and begins to take regular steps toward improvement. Implementing improvement practices throughout the sprint is necessary so that team members do not commit the same errors in the future. They evolve as individuals and contribute as better team players.

With this in mind, we decided to implement a continuous retrospective method in our team. Team members were encouraged throughout the sprint to enter their experiences on a centralized, online retrospective spreadsheet. Entries were made throughout the sprint period, without waiting for the last day of the sprint.

The general format of our retrospective ceremony is something like this:
Achievements Learnings New Initiatives Shortcomings Improvement Steps Name

This was not an easy task to get everyone to do. The team was not used to completing this type of activity, so making them understand the benefits of this new approach was vital to its success. The team's reaction was understandable — they had been used to speaking at the end of the retrospective session. In this traditional scenario, team members can either speak or skip their turn if the ScrumMaster does not ask them explicitly to express their thoughts.

Not speaking and being less aware of your surroundings are two different things. One can have a lot of information and also be receptive but may not feel confident or comfortable speaking in front of others. Others can express themselves and speak throughout the ceremony in various ways. By following the practice in which the ScrumMaster asks each team member to speak, everyone gets an equal chance to talk about his or her unique sprint experience.

However, overall we found this to be successful. As soon as the sprint started, team members began making keen observations. They were immediately filling in the details in the online sheet, without waiting for the scheduled retrospective session. This practice gained us two benefits. First, team members could now access an up-to-date retrospective sheet anytime and enter supporting details. Second, team members could take lessons from the experiences of others and implement them for self or team improvement in real time.

This practice gave our retrospective sessions a major boost, as everyone now spent quality time in discussions and did not overthink or worry about what went wrong with the sprint. If you use the format that our team followed, it is essential that you include the team member name on the online form. During the ceremony, each team member enters information and speaks about his or her area in greater detail. In our case, others learned from this discussion and applied the knowledge gained to their area, wherever applicable.

This is a specific case of a sprint retrospective ceremony, but there are definitely other innovative ways to make the ceremony effective.

I would be delighted to hear your thoughts. Please share. Thank you.

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: 3.8 (12 ratings)


Edward Kelly, CSM, 5/25/2016 6:49:04 AM
Innovative way of keeping the team engaged throughout the sprint. As Abhijeet points out, it's also a way of getting less vocal team members to contribute to continuous improvement.
Russell Eirich, CSP,CSM, 5/25/2016 8:47:49 PM
Very interesting post Abhijeet. This is a great way to encourage all team members to contribute and make the retro more efficient and productive. I think we will try something similar with our teams.
Sureshchandra Sharma, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 5/26/2016 4:28:51 AM
Good Abhijeet. This is good, if the team has easy access to online retrospective. May be if it is displayed somewhere close to scrum board, it might generate more interest for team.

Though, not sure of practical challenges but I like the concept.
Rohit Ratan Mani, CSP,CSM, 5/26/2016 4:42:24 AM
Good article Abhijeet.
Snehkumar Shahani, CSM,CSPO, 5/27/2016 9:38:45 AM
Nice articulate explanation of the concept. The way you write makes it very easy to understand. Thanks for sharing.
Abhijeet Verma, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 5/30/2016 2:47:32 AM
@Edward, @Russ, @Snehkumar, @Rohit
Thanks for your comments and words of encouragement :)
@ Sureshchandra - Yes I agree, if the online Retro sheet is near a Scrum board, that would definitely encourage team members to visit it often and put down their experiences. The only challenge which I have faced is keeping the team motivated of its benefits. It often happens that some members are proactive and update their experiences regularly while others have to be pushed.
Kathi Paquet, CSP,CSM, 5/30/2016 1:05:49 PM
Great idea! I encourage the team to use post-its and post by the board. If they do not have a physical scrum board, I have them create a 'retro' area and post issues or things to do better. In addition, key items being improved are posted as a reminder to the team. Everyone can view these. Some team members review and discuss after the daily standup.
When we are ready for the sprint retro, we have a list the team can work together and discuss potential solutions.
Abhijeet Verma, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 6/1/2016 4:21:17 AM
@ Kathi - We also practice the same stuff in just about the same way :) I encourage team to fill their their experiences, ideas and feedbacks in the Online Retro right from the first day of Sprint. At the same time, we have some regular bullet points in our Retro meetings which I converted into a pledge and stick it on another online Sheet for the team to adhere to them continuously. As we start with the Retro meeting, members need to agree with the pledge bullet points unanimously.
Colleen Johnson, CSM, 5/24/2017 2:41:40 PM
We built a tool that makes Continuous Retrospectives super easy, & its called ScatterSpoke! You can customize your format, add cards right when they happen, and see important items from your last retrospective. Our goal is to take the remembering out of retrospectives. Its free to use and we welcome any feedback you have!

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