A Retrospective That Pushes Learning and Brings Forward the Agile Principles

Some years ago our teams decided to commit to increasing their Agility (coming from a background of doing Scrum), with a focus on the Agile principles and living them every day.

After workshops and discussions on the principles and how we can reflect them better in our work, I experimented with a model of retrospective that was meant to reinforce the principles and push for continuous improvement and learning.

The feedback I got after this retro was: “This was one of the most insightful retrospective we had so far“. I will show below why.

Purpose of the retrospective

The purpose of this retrospective is, of course, learning and continuous improvement, but also reinforcement of Agile Principles and reflection on how to move forward in our agile journey.

How to run it

  1. I first explained that the principles are not absolute rules, but guidelines. The retrospective is meant to create a new way of looking at our work, and find improvement areas that would push us closer ro our agile ideal.
  2. I posted the Agile Principles on the screen (I am an environmentalist, if there’s an option that involves not consuming products, I will always go for that). I made sure that everyone in the room understood each principle and what each implied.
  3. I went through each principle (checking if any questions on its meaning) and asked the team where we are on fulfilling those, on a scale from 1 (e.g. we’re not doing anything to implement Continuous Delivery) to 5 (the Continuous Delivery book was written after our practices).
  4. We discussed why we are at 1 or 5 and what we can do to push forward in the areas that influences the principle. We came up with an action plan (related to each principle, but a lot of the actions were cross-principles).
  5. After I posted all the actions on the board, we voted on the most important, assigned owners (where the case), and added the actions to the backlog.
  6. I closed the retrospective (you can also add actions to Set the stage for the retro if you’re dealing with a newer team).

I did some variations of this retrospective where I sent over the principles to the team beforehand and they filled in the scores on a Google sheet or I posted them on the board and the team individually wrote their scores alongside each principle.

These variations are useful if the team doesn’t yet feel safe to share their learning, the team is new and trust is not yet set, or you have introverts in the team that need a nudge to join in the conversation.

Feedback and insights

The feedback was fantastic, emphasis being on a few comments:

  1. The retrospective felt complete: it pushed the team think outside of how they work, coming a little bit from top (ideal situation), down (reality), rather than the other way around, the way we run retrospectives usually.
  2. The retrospective increased awareness of the Agile principles and some of the people started to research on their own on the topics they care about most (e.g. we have a colleague that got very passionate about Continuous Delivery and started to look for practices that all teams can use and implement).
  3. It was a good incentive for self-reflection – especially discussing the part of self-organised teams, how they ideally want to work as a team and what they strive for versus where they are now.
  4. The actions that the team came up with were systemic actions, focusing on the bigger picture rather than the little things of daily work.

This is the Agile Manifesto – Principles, that I posted on the screen. Find the original Agile Principles here:

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