Return on Retrospectives (ROR) = Innovation

In a comment on an article about Pixar in The Economist, Tom Agan from the Nielsen Company, writes:

"At The Nielsen Company we have just completed a study of the major consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies operating in the U.S. and those with standardized post mortems for new products, like Pixar, average almost 100% more revenue from new products compared to those that don't...I think through articles like this and new research that quantifies the impact, we are coming much closer to uncovering the universal truths of innovation."

I'm willing to put up with The Economist (and Pixar)...


Retrospective Short Subjects II

In Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great!, Esther Derby and I include a collection of activities we called, “Short Subjects.”

After Gathering Data, these useful activities provide relatively quick ways to review event, effort, and response data; reflect on the implications of the data; and Generate Insights about team experiences.

Teams Retrospectives

Personal Retrospectives

Agile retrospectives aren’t just for teams or organizations. Individuals (like you and me) also use them as a way of taking stock and choosing how to move forward—reflecting, inspecting, and adapting to the changing conditions in our lives. Chronological milestones serve as a great prompts for a personal retrospective (e.g., year’s-end, birthday, anniversary, solstice, etc.).

We find ourselves at the end of 2009, looking toward 2010 with eager anticipation and/or reluctant anxiety. What a great time to retrospect!

First, plan your retrospective.

Where will you focus? Choose a focus or theme for the retrospective that holds meaning for...

Mr. Squiggle

Nick Oostvogel describes a creative activity to revive boring retrospectives and tell the shared story of the project (Gather Data). He calls it Mr. Squiggle.

Agile Retrospectives

Draw Deborah a Picture

Deborah Hartmann posted a description of an interesting “Gathering Data” activity. She calls it “Draw Me a Picture”. It sounds like it would be fun and potentially quite insightful. I’m looking forward to trying it out soon. Thanks for sharing it, Deb!



In a recent Sticky Minds column, Naomi Karten writes about PMI (Plus/Minus/Interesting), a technique for helping groups think together about many aspects of an issue.


PO's & Retros

Jack Milunsky wrote about the Top Ten Activities of a Product Owner. In reply, a number of folks commented that they didn’t like the idea of a Product Owner attending Sprint Retrospectives.

Agile Retrospectives

Circle of Q's

Doc List writes about one of my favorite activities on his blog, Circle of Questions. I added a few comments there as well.


Values Activity

As the chair of the Agile Alliance board over the last year, I’ve had lots of occasion to think about the effect of group values and principles on work. This pondering led me to invent a new activity for the the “Gather Data” phase of retrospectives.

Instructions for Values Activity:

Have plenty of sticky-notes available. I like the 4”x4” super-sticky kind. Accompany the sticky notes with black, broad-line felt tip marking pens. I like the water-based kind that don’t bleed through the paper, but permanent ones will work too.

Ask team members to pair up or get in...


Collected Quotes

Over the years, I’ve noticed when I have a stronger response to particular phrases, sentences, doggerel, koans, and so forth. I get a thrill when someone can frame an idea simply and powerfully into a pithy statement. I collect those inspiring or clarifying quotes. I find them in many sources and sometimes in unlikely places, though usually not from compilations.

Today I’ve decided to share five of my favorites:

An Ethiopian proverb:

When spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion.

Rudyard Kipling, poet:

All good people agree, 

And all good people say, 

All nice people, like Us, are...

Agile Retrospectives

They Got It!

Last month, Cory Foy sent me an email about a project retrospective that gave his team new insights and direction. He used the subject line, “They got it!” You can find the story of Cory’s recent retrospective experience, along with the thread of additional comments, on the XP list digest archive.

Agile Retrospectives

Card Pass

Just because your team members feel shy about expressing (or receiving) appreciations in public, doesn’t mean you should stop doing them. Tami Flowers told me about her solution to making sure team members know what they’ve done that helps their co-workers and to encourage them to keep doing those things. She called it “Card Pass with Appreciations.”

Here’s how it goes:

Arrange chairs so that team members sit in a circle of chairs or around a table. Make sure that every person has a pen. Pass out large index cards, one per team member, and ask each person to write...


Interpersonal Root Causes

I was at a party much too late last night (after the Agile2008 banquet), and it's good I was there. Just as I was getting ready to leave, two people walked over to me and told me a story about their retrospectives.

One of them thanked me for the book and said that it had helped in their retrospectives. Then he told me that the activities in the book had inspired him to create activities on his own. I asked if he would share an example with me.

He described how interpersonal conflicts and friction had plagued his team....