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Allan Kelly has held just about every job in the software world, from sys admin to development manager. Today he provides training and coaching to teams in the use of Agile and Lean techniques. He is the author of "Changing Software Development: Learning to become Agile" (2008) and "Business Patterns for Software Developers" (2012) and a frequent conference speaker. Allan is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 85 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Retrospectives - common or not, a small survey

07.12.2011
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I’m still experimenting with Dialogue Sheets for Retrospectives (the download page, and my earlier blog entry) and so are other people. Of the feedback I’ve had so far it has been overwhelmingly positive. Perhaps people who aren’t positive don’t bother trying them.

The sheets are free to download but I do request people register. My objective here is to obtain more feedback. Periodically, like today, I get the e-mail addresses of those who have downloaded and I send a polite note saying “Any feedback?”.

In registering I ask a couple of other questions. One of these questions is: “How often do you hold a retrospective?”. I thought it would be interesting to share the results of this data so far:

How often do you do a retrospective?
38%Every two weeks or more often
21%Never
16%At least once a month
15%I am a retrospective facilitator and so hold many
6%Rarely
3%At least once a quarter
1%About every six months

This is good to see, about 54% of people are holding retrospectives with the frequency you would expect from a Scrum, XP or other type of Agile team. But sadly the second biggest group is never holding retrospectives, 21% of people. And 10% are holding them rarely or very occasionally.

Now think again, this data is not representative. 15% of people are not retrospective facilitators (e.g. Scrum Masters, Agile Coach, etc.). The people who download these sheets have an interest in retrospectives, this group is self-selecting.

The implications of this are that an awful lot less than 54% of people are doing retrospectives with anything near the frequency one should expect from an Agile team. Given that retrospectives are the primary means of learning in an Agile team I suspect that means that an awful lot of teams are are not really practicing Agile as described in the books.

I have long suspected that retrospectives are actually one of the more advanced Agile techniques and are far from common. I think this data supports that argument, but at the same time I think they are more common than I tended to think, maybe thats the progress of 3 years.
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