What is your favourite scrum event and why?
If you know me at all, it’s the sprint retrospective.
I believe that the sprint retrospective is the most important event in Scrum, and I also believe that it is a great opportunity for the scrum master or agile coach to connect with the team in a meaningful way that leads to improvement.
The sprint retrospective is possibly the most valuable event that the Agile world has within it, an event where the team come together and evaluate what is working, what needs work, where and how the team can improve in the next sprint.
It’s a time to reflect, inspect and adapt.
Kaizen is a philosophy of continuous improvement through learning and adapting based on what we have learned. The sprint retrospective is the opportunity we have to get just that little bit better, each sprint, and continuously evolve into a far more effective, creative, and collaborative team.
We can only get better by reflecting on what we have done, what we have learned, and how we could improve based on what we have learned.
Over time, this practice yields a compound effect where incrementally, with each iteration, we simply just evolve into a better team that produces great work.
As a team and as an individual, you end up many times better than when you started the process.
Much of our ability to continuously improve in Scrum comes from the sprint retrospective.
I also love the sprint retrospective because they are fun. They are great fun to create and to facilitate.
It’s an opportunity for the team to come together and have their most valuable discussions, sometimes very hard conversations, but necessary conversations.
Conversations that help surface any issues that have arisen in the team environment or to understand what policies, etc. may be blocking progress for the team. Conversations that may surface a conflict between team members that can only be resolved through open, honest and respectful discussion and subsequent decision-making around the action that must be taken.
These conversations are always interesting.
I am fascinated by human nature. I am fascinated by human interaction. These events are an insight into how we collaborate, how a team thinks and feels, and how people can creatively design and develop better ways of working and collaborating.
When individuals have conversations they are passionate about, I get to see a side of them that I don’t ordinarily get to see within the context of my day to day work with them. I get to see them deeply engaged in conversations that aren’t natural for them. Conversations that force them to dig deep and explore how they can best contribute to making the team better or resolving an issue that is creating impediments for the team.
People understand that these conversations are important, and they are willing to invest the time and effort to make these events meaningful, which is an immense privilege to witness.
Sprint retrospectives also offer an opportunity to do things that you wouldn’t typically do in meetings.
In my retrospectives I’ve had everything from people blowing up balloons and popping them to flexing their creative fingers and creating something that challenges them to step out of their comfort zones and use parts of their imagination that aren’t usually employed in their job.
Things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do in planning, in strategy meetings, or in a weekly catch up that evaluates performance.
It really is an opportunity to create an event that people look forward to.
In order to truly challenge people to dig deep, you simply can’t have a traditional sit around staring at a PowerPoint presentation style meeting. Little things, like using Lego, reframe the event as fun, creative and challenging. It creates an environment where creativity, imagination and contribution are valued above compliance, diligence and obedience.
It’s got to be an environment that is engaging. It has to be a place where people feel they are safe to express themselves and what most matters to them. Psychological safety is a crucial element of a successful sprint retrospective and I can’t emphasise enough how important that is.
Invest in the book “Agile Retrospectives: Making good teams great” for some insights into how to run a great retrospective and for a heap of great exercises and ideas for your retrospective.
I really encourage you to buy the book and invest in being as creative as possible when it comes to creating memorable and meaningful sprint retrospectives.
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