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Letting go in retrospectives

When I ran my first retrospectives I was anxious. I planned meticulously. I tried to anticipate what would happen and what wouldn’t. I had back-up plans for my back-up plans. And sometimes back-up plans for those.

As I moved further in my coaching practice I became less anxious. Retrospectives were something I’d done before. They were within my comfort zone.

However, I still planned each retrospective.

Trust in your self

In the last year or so how I prepare for retrospectives has changed. Some of the people I coach comment on the fact I seem to do less preparation than I ask of them.

This isn’t the case.

The preparation I do now is more behind the scenes, part of my day-to-day actions. Something I do as I go along. Of course things can change rapidly, but I can still fall back on a proper planning session if needs be.

Methods for retrospectives

One of the main reasons I can do this now is the number of methods and techniques I’ve learnt over the last few years. Diana Larsen and Esther Derby’s book is a great start. It is however only a start, there are a great many articles and blogs out there on the subject.

A few methods follow one after the other really well, knowing them can save a lot of heart-ache. Unfortunately what works for me may not for you, I’d recommend you try things out and see what happens.

The exception to the rule

This works well, for me, at the team level. As long as I’ve kept track of the team throughout the time-frame I’m normally aware of what the main issues and bug-bears are. As such, any plan becomes self-evident from the data and experiences over the last iteration.

For large-scale retrospectives, however, I’m not comfortable going in without a plan. It isn’t a meticulous, crafted plan but I have the essentials all noted down: exercises and materials needed; timings of everything; key points that need covering. This is more about the logistics than anything else, it isn’t so easy to rustle up post-its and pens for 300 people, or get them into a room for that matter.

Sometimes things need a plan; I guess it depends what you’re doing and how comfortable you are doing it.