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Retrospective in Lean Development

Mohamed El-Refaey
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Joined: Dec 08, 2009
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Hello Marry,

Do you think is that retrospective is an effective tool in lean development to have a self-organized, initiative and proactive teams or it might be a tool for embarrassing others? and how psychological this can lead developers or all the project stakeholders to move with the project forward?


Best Regards, Mohamed El-Refaey
www.egyptcloudforum.com
Mary Poppendieck
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I favor making classic process improvement processes a part of team processes. So you might have something you call a retrospective, but the time would be spent looking at the current process for the biggest opportunity for improvement, and then working on addressing that problem. Internal problems are solved within the team. Boundary-spanning problems are solved by team members with guidance from a mentor.

Classic process improvement processes include deeply understanding the current condition, doing a root-cause analysis, and trying experiments to see if they improve the situation. If they do, then this becomes the new way of working. Of course, in order for this to work, there has to be a CURRENT way of working, so that the team can learn through experiments if a new way is better.

Teams should have the time and leadership to solve their own problems. They should not just look backwards and gripe. They should look back and then be expected and empowered to address the biggest problem they see. The leaders job is to mentor this process.


Mary Poppendieck
Author of Lean Software Development, Implementing Lean Software Development, and Leading Lean Software Development
Mohamed El-Refaey
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Joined: Dec 08, 2009
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So, you consider retrospective as a frame/name or container in which you favor to apply classical way of process improvements, is that right ?
and the main point is to have already a process which needs to improvmnet and the second important point is to have process improvement mentors
Mary Poppendieck
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Actually, I usually don't use the word retrospective, since is is a term coined in the software development world that sometimes misses a lot of excellent earlier work on process improvement. It's a good word, but to some people it is loaded with meanings that may lead to impressions like the one you mentioned: " a tool for embarrassing others".

In our manufacturing plant we created Quality Circles. They were immensely successful, but over the years, Quality Circles saw many bad implementations and got a bad reputation in the west. So similarly, it became a word to avoid, because it called up the wrong mental image of what was meant.
Mohamed El-Refaey
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Joined: Dec 08, 2009
Posts: 119
You are definitely right about the impression a word can give ... I think process improvement is a generic word and have nothing against anyone ... it is aimed for improvement (process, design etc) not aiming to point-finger others ...
Thank you Marry ... I really appreciate your answers, it is really concrete and to the point ... I am really anxious to read all of your entire book
Ilja Preuss
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I'd bet quite a lot that I can easily find someone for whom "process improvement initiative" is a read flag!

And I'm proud to say that in the company I work, "retrospective" invokes positive connotations. With other words, I don't think that there is one single term that works for everyone - you will always have to adjust to your audience...


The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Mohamed El-Refaey
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Ilja Preuss wrote:And I'm proud to say that in the company I work, "retrospective" invokes positive connotations. With other words, I don't think that there is one single term that works for everyone - you will always have to adjust to your audience...


retrospective invoke +ve connotations at your place as the term has been used well and with no personal offense and the environment itself might be a healthy one ...
but still you are right, no term can work for everyone.
Mary Poppendieck
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I'd bet quite a lot that I can easily find someone for whom "process improvement initiative" is a read flag!


Yep, that would be easy. Especially since "process" has rather negative connotations for a lot of people. Even I don't really like the word "process" so sometimes I use "system" instead.

Retrospective is really a great word - my biggest problem is when a retrospective creates a nice queue of problems but does not also create action to address them. I'd rather see a shorter queue of stuff that needs fixing and a concerted effort to go ahead and fix the biggest issues. Many teams use retrospectives very successfully for this. And then again, others don't. I don't think it's the fault of the term. Really good agile teams are ALWAYS improving how things are done.
Jeff Langr
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Mary Poppendieck wrote:Really good agile teams are ALWAYS improving how things are done.


Which is also a core element of success in lean and the TPS.

It's also to me the chief delineation between true agile teams and those who don't get it. Teams who don't even try to change how they do things aren't agile, even if they follow all supposed "agile practices" by the book.

I've always liked the idea of promoting agile retrospectives as opportunities to devise experiments for forthcoming iterations (and releases). Hypothesize, plan the experiment, collect and analyze data, adapt. Whatever they're called, retrospective meetings need to produce concrete and measurable action items.


Books: Agile Java, Modern C++ Programming with TDD, Essential Java Style, Agile in a Flash. Contributor, Clean Code.
Mohamed El-Refaey
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Jeff Langr wrote:I've always liked the idea of promoting agile retrospectives as opportunities to devise experiments for forthcoming iterations (and releases). Hypothesize, plan the experiment, collect and analyze data, adapt. Whatever they're called, retrospective meetings need to produce concrete and measurable action items.


This great! ... it is actually a tool/way to put you on track when you deviate a bit from your plans/quality etc.
Paul Wallace
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Joined: Oct 09, 2006
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The forward looking positive tone of Jeff Langr's post is exactly the mindset you need to make retrospectives a success.

I'm also thinking how retrospectives can be iterative so that actions are achievable and build-on/adjust previous retrospective action items. In effect, the retrospective becomes a mini project within the overall project.

Do people have patterns or templates that they follow in retrospectives? Rather that sitting down for a group moan where the only question is something to the effect "What needs fixed?", are there specific questions that need to be asked?

Rainer Eschen
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What I really like about Retrospectives in Scrum is that they occur regularly and also focus on the parts that worked pretty well in the current Sprint. Positive feedback makes the team stronger.


ICEfaces book . ICEcube . ICEfusion . Scrum
Hmostafa Rizk
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Joined: Dec 17, 2009
Posts: 8
Mary, you said, Agile teams ALWAYS improve things, i see that agile teams or people should have certain qualities to be selected with to be with specific attitude and behavior to apply, or can the change be applied for normal traditional people and still give positive results in being agile team member?
Jeff Langr
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Paul Wallace wrote:Do people have patterns or templates that they follow in retrospectives? Rather that sitting down for a group moan where the only question is something to the effect "What needs fixed?", are there specific questions that need to be asked?


I've used the Diana Larsen and Esther Derby book Agile Retrospectives to great effect. It provides two core things:
- A structured framework for the flow of a retrospective. (Basically, it's: Set the stage, gather data, generate insights, determine course of action, close the retrospective.) To this, I add a "safety exercise" as needed (do a Google search; I think Norm Kerth talks about these in more detail). It also covers personality-related issues around what to watch for and correct in order to keep retrospectives from degrading into sessions that are more damaging than helpful.
- A collection of exercises designed to keep us thinking in different manners about how to uncover things; they also serve to keep retrospectives engaging. People lose interest quickly if it ends up being just "what worked well, what didn't work well."

If you're running an agile retrospective, this is an essential book (it's not long or expensive as computer books go). Others have critiqued the whole thought of agile retrospectives as too touchy feely. But I think they miss the point that it's all about getting teams to learn how to work together well, to recognize problems on their own, and to agree to work in a common direction to correct these problems. That's touching in some areas that can cause interpersonal conflict, resentment, etc, so it is necessarily a tad touchy-feely.

Jeff
Mary Poppendieck
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Mary, you said, Agile teams ALWAYS improve things, i see that agile teams or people should have certain qualities to be selected with to be with specific attitude and behavior to apply, or can the change be applied for normal traditional people and still give positive results in being agile team member?


I'm not sure what (or who) you mean by "traditional people". In my opinion, 95%+ of all worker show up at work every day wanting to do a good job. If the system they work in prevents them from doing a good job, or worse, actively keeps them from doing a good job, then they will shut down their internal enthusiasm and just do what they are told. The way to tap the internal dedication of people is to acquire a deep appreciation for the way the current system actually incentives people to behave, and change the way that system works. In the end, as a former boss once told me, "People do what you expect and what you inspect."

That being said, successful lean companies are very careful to hire the kind of people with the kinds of attitudes that they expect in their company. Southwest Airlines looks very hard for people that are outgoing and love helping other people. Toyota hires people who love cars and are dedicated to achieving the goals. And so on. It helps to have the right kind of people, but for the most part, if people seem to be acting in an unhelpful manner, I'll bet the structure of incentives is creating the problem.
Jeff Langr
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Mary Poppendieck wrote:Southwest Airlines looks very hard for people that are outgoing and love helping other people.


Greetings Ms Poppendieck,

Funny you mention that. I'm currently at SW for a few months, helping some of their software development teams come up to speed with agile. I think they have a more healthy and positive attitude here than elsewhere (such as the hell I suffered in for the prior three years, a place that paid only lip service to things like ethics and continual improvement). SW strives to create a good workplace. As such, many here do try honestly to reflect and improve.

It does boil down to getting the right people together. When hiring developers, I don't look so much for specific technical skills. Far more relevant is finding people who have good attitudes, good aptitudes for learning/improving, and good problem-solving skills. But it's also very important that they are interested in working in the same manner we do.

Since you mention incentives, can you provide some thoughts on what you've found to be positive incentives? I've seen a number of dis-incentives that hurt badly, such as:
- disproportionate compensation or overly secretive compensation schemes
- bonus schemes not tied to bottom line (I like the thoughts outlined in The Great Game of Business here)
- lack of delivery of product
- delivery of poor quality product
- lack of recognition of significant accomplishments
- rewards that reinforce poor behavior (e.g. rewarding a "hero" for staying all night to fix problems in a shop where they are common)

Jeff
Hmostafa Rizk
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Joined: Dec 17, 2009
Posts: 8
what i meant by Traditional people in our context was Traditional workers, who do not want to know new approaches like lean or agile and terrified of changing anything they used to do in some way to another.

Why do Technical people in particular feel uncomfortable when changing their working approach, why is it hard to be aligned easily as business people in IT organizations, what is open issues or risky elements those technical guys see and others don't...as i always use to hear from management that technical guys don't really know how to do anything but coding, and i don't think so but sometimes i see it real
Mary Poppendieck
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Since you mention incentives, can you provide some thoughts on what you've found to be positive incentives?


I am not really talking about bonuses and pay plans when I mention incentives. I mean something more like what kinds of messages are telegraphed to people by the behavior of management.

Here's an example. On an aircraft carrier, a newbie sailor alerted his team lead that he had lost a wrench. A stray wrench is a dangerous thing, so the message was relayed up, and the entire deck was closed to take-offs and landings until the wrench was found. You can imagine how this made the newbie sailor feel! The admiral of the carrier called all hands on deck later in the day. He called the sailor who lost his wrench up to the mike, and then shook his hand and congratulated him for having the courage to report his missing wrench. He had the whole ship give the newbie a round of applause. You can imagine how THAT made him feel. And you can imagine that if another wrench was ever lost, every sailor on the carrier knew exactly what to do about it. That's what I mean by incentives.

Managers telegraph by how they respond to incidents how they expect people to behave. People know whether they will get kudos or punishment for doing something, and will act accordingly. It's these unspoken expectations that create the positive environment that you find at SouthWest, and that also create the negative environments that you saw earlier.
Mary Poppendieck
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what i meant by Traditional people in our context was Traditional workers, who do not want to know new approaches like lean or agile and terrified of changing anything they used to do in some way to another.


If people are terrified about changing their approach, either they believe that it is working spectacularly well and no other way could be better, or they are convinced that their management (or their system) will somehow find a way to punish them for attempting to do things differently. I would bet that to change an approach, the overlaying management expectations will probably have to be addressed. In other words, I am not willing to say the people doing the work are the problem in your scenario - the real problem is much more likely to be the overall work environment and the kind of behavior that it rewards.
Hmostafa Rizk
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Joined: Dec 17, 2009
Posts: 8
Very interesting..totally agree with you, it is really nice to see real analysis of the situation...if the problem is in the environment and management, then how it can be approached, according to what i understood from you, i see that change should start from the top then so it can get to the executives and workers level well applied, right? or does lean or agile advocates and consultants recommend working vertically on the change?
Mary Poppendieck
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Lean is as much a management philosophy as anything. Some people use it as a silver bullet, and then it actually doesn't do much good. It has to change the way people think about what's important, about cause and effect, and so on.

Where you start almost always depends on where the organization is now.
 
Consider Paul's rocket mass heater.
 
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