7 reasons to change how you start your Retro

A lot of places start Retrospectives with an open forum. Putting on their compassionate voice the PM or ScrumMaster does their best impression of a camp guidance counsellor:

So team, what’s gone well this sprint and where could we improve?

This is followed by either a void of silence and shuffling feet or a stream of consciousness erupting from that person that’s been suppressing their anger over the last few weeks. After a few hours of complaining and arguing and blaming, people eventually call it a day, exhausted and no further along than they were when they started.

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An introduction to Sprints

Sprints are short periods of time in which you hope to achieve some measurable progress towards your larger goals. Most teams run 2 week sprints. These are long enough to make meaningful progress but short enough to plan at the right level of detail.

  • You start each sprint with a planning session agreeing on the goals you hope to achieve and discussing any impediments or assumptions.
  • Throughout the sprint you’ll check in with your squad on the progress you’re making with regular stand ups.
  • At the end of the sprint you review the work done with a demo and discuss the processes you’re using with a retrospective (often abbreviated to retro).

Beyond this, there are lots of details and variables which teams customise as they see fit. But most of what makes a sprint work is contained in those 4 meetings (called ceremonies).

Addressing the right problem with the right solution

Product Management is really only about two things:

  1. Understanding the space in which your product exists: DISCOVERY
  2. Building your product to deliver the most value in that space: DELIVERY

These two are fundamentally linked. If you don’t understand the problems and opportunities in your space you’ll never address them. If you don’t know your users’ needs you’ll never fulfil them. Similarly, if you’re not conscious of the product you have, of the direction you’re growing, then you won’t ask the right questions to understand your space.

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