Thomas Edison said, “there is a way to do it better – find it”. And what’s a better way to identify improvements than via agile retrospectives! At data school, we use agile methodology to plan and deliver our work. We apply the same principles while we are learning as well because it helps us to be completely focused not only on getting the best out of the time invested but also to be client-focused and prioritise our work well.
An agile retrospective is usually done at the end of a Sprint and its objective is to look at processes, tools, interactions, relationships, etc. to look to find and implement improvements. In its simplest form, an agile retrospective would have three key components – what’s going well, what can be improved, and a set of agreed actions. Our team believes in keeping things simple and that’s why we follow this simplest form of doing agile retrospectives. We also make sure said the entire team participates in the retrospective.
When we do our client projects, they are done in a fast-paced and challenging environment. We are given ideas and targets at the beginning of a week, and we deliver a client presentation on a working solution towards the end of the week. This fast-paced way of doing things not only tests our data analytics skills but also our ability to work together as a team. So on a Monday morning after our last client presentation, we take a hard look to add what’s gone well during the project, what can be improved, and determine a clear set of actions that we all follow collectively as a team.
We do this exercise on a whiteboard by creating three columns as listed above. Then we collect our thoughts on post-it notes and add them to appropriate columns on the board. This individual thinking is then followed by a round of robust open and honest conversation which helps us not only to do an affinity clustering of similar ideas but also to prioritise and identify a small number of changes that we would want to implement in the next round. My experience with this process is that it has led to a steady improvement in the way we work together. It has also helped us to improve our focus on customer value and plan our upcoming projects much better.
If continuous improvement is your goal, retrospectives would be your first port of call. And if your team is new to agile and if there’s just one agile practice that you would want to adopt, I would recommend you begin with retrospectives over all other practices!