What is Agile Retrospective?
What is this ceremony? Could it be of any help for the Agile teams? Is it important?
Agile Manifesto is describing it like this:
“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.”
What about Inspect and Adapt? Is it fundamental for every practice under the Agile umbrella?
I'll refer to the Agile Retrospective as Sprint Retrospective because SCRUM (the most well-known framework in Agile) works with Sprints. Retrospective is a ceremony in Sprint - and this why I like to call it a "container" - because it is a placeholder for all the ceremonies.
Many agile team members make a confusion between Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective. Actually, the main similarity is that both ceremonies happen at the end of each Sprint (or at least this is how it should be).
In very simple words, which are the purposes of these ceremonies?
- Sprint Review: it helps the team to asses the incremental work of the product/project that has been done;
- Sprint Retrospective: it seeks for the improvements of the process that has been applied during the Sprint.
A Sprint Retrospective is a placeholder for inspecting and adapting the framework rules by the team - as a formal ceremony. Of course nothing can stop the team from making process improvements all the time, but a best practice is to use this ceremony for seeing a complete picture of the entire process.
Which are the main improvements which come as a result of applying Kanban as a strategy?
Setting the WIP limits and policies for transitions in the process workflow. Using information radiators is a method for the team team to immediately see the bottlenecks or the improvements that may happen.
Diagrams that are used in SCRUM cannot expose one of the main issues that may appear in a flow like forgetting about different started items:
- burn-down/up chart: it does not "show" the problem - the rate of completion does not distinguish between items that have different start time;
- cumulative flow diagram: it can give an insight for the average of cycle time.
In order to calculate the cost of impeded flow you need to follow these steps:
- calculate the age of each item;
- use the input below to obtain the average cycle time;
- in a cumulative diagram confront every throughput with the previous step;
- work items that influence the flow in a negative way can be used to optimise the flow.
Some (final) thoughts
Sprint Retrospective and Sprint Review are different ceremonies focusing on process and on product/project increment.
Kanban as a strategy - implemented by a team - brings more focus towards the flow rather than towards the delivery of particular features.
This article is part of a bigger topic called Agile Software Development.