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Cultivating the Positive Effects of Agile Retrospectives

Bruno Miranda

VP Engineering at Doximity

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Problem

An agile retrospective is a meeting held at the end of an iteration or at a scheduled interval. In a retrospective, team members get a chance to voice their opinions on things that worked well and items that need improvement. Participants write their concerns and praises on post-it notes that are stuck to opposite ends of a wall. We read and review each topic one by one, take notes, and create action items on things that deserve more attention. Action items are assigned as stories and chores and sent out to all participants. Sounds good, but how do you ensure its proper implementation?

Actions taken

  • Make sure all team members understand the purpose of the retrospective.
  • Review previous retrospectives action items quickly before you begin, if you have any.
  • Keep participants focused and any one individual from hogging the mic or going on lengthy tangents.
  • Keep the meeting to one hour max.
  • Have a moderator and a separate note-taker. We rotate these responsibilities at Doximity amongst team members.
  • Include remote participants and make sure they have local representation for posting post-its on the whiteboard.
  • Walk away with clear action items and assign them as stories and chores.
  • Send out retrospective notes to all participants as soon as possible.

"Make sure all team members understand the purpose of the retrospective."

We began with a team-wide retrospective that included the entire engineering team, QA team, and a few of the product managers. We now have team-wide retrospectives every two months rather than every six. Sub-teams within the engineering department also have smaller retrospectives slightly more often. They use these to discuss items pertaining more closely to their specific work and focus.

Lessons learned

  • I would certainly recommend you follow all Agile principles when first adopting the methodology. This will help you learn what works best for you.
  • As we focus on improving based on constructive feedback, negative items are soon replaced by positive feedback and praise.
  • It has led us to a place where everyone is happy with the process, and the outcome has been nothing but positive.

"As we focus on improving based on constructive feedback, negative items are soon replaced by positive feedback and praise."

Source: The Real Value of Retrospectives


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Bruno Miranda

VP Engineering at Doximity


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