Two Questions to Help Your Retrospective Work

Though the end of the week is upon us, I still want to leave you with a brief but powerful tool that I learned from Agile software development. 

Agile is a philosophy of software development crafted by some prominent practitioners during the late nineties. They were very frustrated with the poor results that they used to get in their projects by using very complex principles that were cumbersome and hardly followed. Most of the time the effort was on solving the nuances of those processes instead of creating code. So they came up with a set of  very simple principles to which they stick to in a very disciplined way. In this way the effort can actually be focused on uncovering the beauty of good code.

As you may guess those principles were influenced by other tendencies in engineering and management, such as lean management. These principles were quickly adopted by the community and specific tools and methods were defined to put them into practice. Furthermore they can be used to facilitate the work of teams in many different disciplines.

I leave you today with two questions that are used in what is called a Sprint Retrospective. A Sprint is a pre-defined period of time which is just enough for the team to build something meaningful or something that can be shown (anything from a week to a month). A product is then built in several different sprints. The Sprint review is a meeting that comes at the end of that time and where the team evaluates how they did it during the period they are just finishing.

The questions are:

1. What went well during our last period of work?

2. What can be done different during our next period of work?

Many times we are so consumed by our day to day that we forgot to ask ourselves how are we doing things. To ask ourselves if our ways are paying off the results that we expect, or if we should do something different. These very simple questions can put us on the right track by providing us with specific things that can be actioned right away, instead of trying to solve every problem under the sun at the same time. If we keep asking them consistently at the end of each period, over time all our work culture can be positively impacted.

Happy Thanksgiving!

- Sergio Calvo.

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