This Week in PCM: Creating a Retrospective

06262016 Retrospective

Read the original PM.Expert article here: http://www.pm.expert/index.php/2016/06/26/week-pm-creating-retrospective/

As companies approach the end of a month or quarterly, it is high time to review their progress for the past time period to see what has worked and what hasn’t. A retrospective is a great way to accomplish this. A retrospective is part of the scrum framework. Scrum is a framework that does incremental improvement in product development. Within scrum, there are sprints which is a timed iteration where the team (scrum) works on a specific process. At the end of each sprint, there is a retrospective. A retrospective is ‘ a meeting at which the team discusses the just-concluded sprint and determines what could be changed that might make the next sprint more productive.’  Usually a retrospectives happen at least once a month because that’s the longest duration of a sprint.

Using the retrospective framework will help you identify what has and hasn’t worked and where you can improve for the next month or quarter. Below are the 5-step structure of a retrospective. They are:

  • Setting the stage
  • Gathering the data
  • Generating insights
  • Deciding what to do
  • Closing the retrospective

Setting the stage

The goal for this step is to set the tone and direction for the retrospective. This is the blueprint/roadmap section where you write out the retrospective’s destination and the metrics. What is your definition of success? What is your definition of failure? Where can you improve? These three metrics are essential guideposts that build your retrospective.

Gathering the data

Now that you have established your guideposts, the next step is to highlight important information and events. This stage is where you summarize the important metrics that fit into these three categories: what you’ve done right; what you’ve done wrong and where you can improve.

Generating insights

Here you use your summarized data to produce results. These can be trend analyses showing data performance. If there are any outliers, these should be reported and investigated. Sometimes outliers can be one-off events or the start of a new trend that should be monitored during the next month or quarter.

Deciding what to do

Once you obtain the results, deciding a course of action is next. Regarding what you are good at, how can you improve upon these results? These current results create your baseline or performance standard. You need to use this quarter’s current result as a springboard to better things. Conversely, you want to know what you are not good to be dropped. These underperforming activities are sunk costs. No matter how much effort and money you have put into them, they haven’t generated the desired return on investment (ROI) so the team drops them. Dropping them allows the team to use all of their energies and resources towards becoming better and improving upon other activities in the next category.

Return on investment is indispensable when deciding where to allocate resources towards areas of improvement. The team should create a monthly or quarterly forecast projecting the anticipated ROI for each area. The team should monitor their performances revisiting these areas during the next retrospective. During the next retrospective, the team can decide whether or not to add them to the what you are good at category or ditch it completely.

Closing the retrospective

Once a decision has been rendered, the team has the decisions and will use them as inputs into creating a better sprint. Closing is part of the continuous feedback loop. View closing as the output for the current sprint and the input for the future sprint.

Continuous improvement of teams, outputs and business processes is the ultimate goal of this 5-step retrospective structure. These five steps and their explanations will help you plan, execute, review and close your retrospective.

Source: https://www.red-gate.com/blog/building/five-steps-effective-sprint-retrospective

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