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What is a retrospective?

06.24.2010
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According to dictionary definition retrospective is a show of the work an artist has done in their life so far. Well even if most of developers consider their work art it is not quite what I wanted to write about. But there is another definition: relating to or thinking about the past. This is more like it. Retrospective is a moment of reflection, when You can ask questions and get some very important (hopefully) answers.

Most often in IT You can meet retrospectives in form of lessons learned. It's a time, usually at the of the project (which is the biggest disadvantage in my opinion), when team summarizes the project and tries to write what they have learned. If the project was long they (the team) might not remember everything. On the other hand they will most likely remember only the most important things (and the brain remembers only the good things trying to forget about the bad ones, so perhaps this is not an advantage). Such retrospective is very useful when You are going to do something similar in future where You could use the knowledge each team member kept for himself till this meeting. And it is better when You use the knowledge when it is fresh, so You can easily revise it and improve.

So what I was heading to is an Agile Retrospective. Retrospectives are very important in all Agile methodologies. Agile Retrospective is an event that happens at the end of iteration but shall not be a part of planning next one - just a tool that shall help to plan and improve next iteration better. Team discusses three things: what went well, what didn't and what could be improved. And this last question is in my opinion the true power of Agile Retrospective. You get the insight into the project from the perspective of each team member. It's the team who can make the change and this change shall come from the team.

There are of course plenty of other questions You may want to ask so first thing to do before Your first retrospective is to learn asking them :). Follow us on twitter to get some good ideas on the retrospective questions You might want to ask to Your Team. And have fun with it!

Quick summary

Agile Retrospective is a

  • time of reflection
  • where You talk about what went well and what did not  go well
  • where You wonder what could be improved

Thee basic questions in Agile Retrospective:

  • What did we do well?
  • What did we do wrong?
  • What could be improved?

Thanks a lot and have a good day!

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Marek Kwiecien.

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