Notes from the Field: Improvement Through Inspection
A Post from Medium on Sep. 4th, 2018
How Retrospectives Aid Improvement
This post is a part of a series that describes how we put experiments into practice, and to understand their outcomes.
Imagine a team that already knows how to get things done. Imagine that same team understands the impact of the things they are getting done. Now let’s say that team has no idea of “why”, or even if they are improving. This is the exact situation our teams were in. For this reason, we felt we were running our retrospectives incorrectly.
Searching for an Identity
These teams were in a constant state of rinse/repeat. There was very little context into what was going to be worked on, or the future of the team. “Just get it done” was a constant motto.
This created an environment of discord for team members and leadership.
“How can we be sure we are delivering value?”
“How do we know if this is meaningful?”
“How do we know if we are even working on the right things?”
As you can see, these are all questions that can be answered. How? Easily: by being open, and harnessing the power of retrospectives.
Create an Environment of Trust
We started off by ditching the concept of “What We Did Well, What We Didn’t Do Well, and What We Can Improve On”, and asked the following questions instead:
What do we need to ensure we are creating a safe space?
The most common answers we discovered together were: trust, open-mindedness, and willingness to change.
What are the events, that happened this sprint, which elevated the team?
What are the events, that happened this sprint, which we are neutral on or unsure of?
What are the events, that happened this sprint, which brought the team down?
We documented the answers to each question, and voted on the topics we felt were the most important to discuss. From there, we would discuss those items, and document anything we wished to take action on.
What we found was that everyone was open, honest, and willing to talk through conflict (no matter how difficult the topic). It was easy to have a voice in this format, and created many coaching opportunities.
Embrace Learning Together
We discovered, as a team, how to talk to each other. How to get on the same page, and discuss hardship. I strongly believe this had the most impact when it came to seeing improvements within our teams.
From cycle times, to overall happiness, we were able to measure impactful improvements. However, the most positive change came from our teams being able to see where they were making the greatest impact.
Over time, we saw that we were starting to discuss growth related ups and downs and how we can address them. “What can we change here that is meaningful to us, and adds the greatest value?”
It’s amazing the goals teams can accomplish when they are aligned.
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