There’s a “why” behind the practice of Retrospective meetings for Agile teams. Setting aside time for group learning inspires continuous improvement. As the old saying goes, “There’s always room for improvement!” The Agile Fluency Model identifies potential areas of improvement. A focus on continuous improvement conveys benefit both the team and the business outcomes.
Teams that hold regular, frequent retrospectives perform three tasks vital to team success. Team members learn from their shared experiences. They think, analyze, and make sense of what they’ve learned. Then they make joint decisions about which of those experiences to improve next. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Fluent proficiency grows. Mastery in professional skills contributes to routinely high performance.
The Delivering Zone
In the Agile Fluency Model James Shore and I emphasize a sequence of possible business benefits. We describe what happens when a team devotes itself to increasing skill in certain areas. We identified the skill areas that lead to successful deliverables.
The second zone we describe is the Delivering zone. For Delivering teams, the pursuit of shared learning both builds on the Focusing zone proficiencies and aids the team in developing skills in three additional areas. First, by responding to business needs in new ways. Second, by working effectively sharing code ownership as a team. Third, by pursuing technical excellence.
Fluent Delivering teams not only focus on business value, they realize that value by shipping as often as their market will accept it. This is called “shipping on the market’s cadence.” Delivering teams are distinguished from Focusing teams not only by their ability to ship, but their ability to ship at will.
What does this have to do with holding team retrospectives? (a review from Part 1)
“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly,” says the Agile Manifesto. “Becoming more effective” is too broad and vague a goal for a single retrospective. For successful group learning and skill building, teams choose to improve in smaller bites.
Zoom in on a subset of behavior that contributes to (or inhibits) effectiveness. Select a relevant aspect of team functioning–process, practice, quality, collaboration, and so forth. For example, “We’ve not achieved a daily commit this iteration. We only committed three times last week and twice this week. What’s going on? What do we want to do about it?”
Why would the retrospective spotlight be different for teams seeking Delivering fluency?
We described zone proficiencies in the Agile Fluency Model article. These proficiencies give us clues about skill areas likely to improve effectiveness. These are great areas to mine for retrospective topics. For Delivering zone topic ideas investigate:
How often do we deliver production ready code and features? Is that often enough for our users?
- Have we developed the confidence to make useful forecasts when the business needs them? How are we at correlating releases to market pull?
- What are we doing to build our sense of collective ownership of code and other artifacts of our work? Are the programmers, testers, designers and devops members of the team fully included?
How are we relying on each others skills and building a strong team?
- How are we creating an atmosphere for psychological safety in our team?
- Have we checked into any of our mission tests from the team charter?
How do we work to continuous improve our code quality, even in the fragile areas?
- What else could we automate and how would it help us?
- What’s the next most critical technical capability that will help to improve our performance?
- How are we bringing back new technical information from events and sharing it in the team?
When teams are building software as a product, their domain expertise grows over time. They develop a connection to the customers, users, and business. Technical excellence creates a sense of pride in the team’s capability and competence. When team members have met the difficult challenges associated with releasing at will, they develop a strong bond. That bond has a positive effect on the quality of work.
Each of the Agile Fluency zones has areas for building fluency as a team. Shared learning is essential in these areas. Retrospectives contribute to team fluency in each zone.
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