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The Rabbit Hole: An Inside Look into Software Development


Apr 4, 2017

In this episode, we’ll talk about retrospectives. To be clear, we’re using the term in reference to retrospective meetings in the Scrum framework, not about art or other retrospectives (though we’ll touch on that in the episode!).

In short, a retrospective is a regular, recurring time to air grievances and make suggestions for how to move forward and make the team better. Its focus is generally on how things went, not about how people behaved, so it doesn’t tend to devolve into a blame game. And it’s important to keep in mind that a good retrospective addresses positive things as well as constructive things.

Generally, the people in the retro should be the people who were involved in the sprint it’s addressing (and who were in the planning meeting for that sprint). In some cases, though, it may be beneficial for an outsider to run the retro.

A good retro should have three distinct phases. First, the ideation phase gives everyone a chance to put everything out there. This is the “yes, and” phase. The second phase is more constructive and involves grouping ideas. This is the “yes, but” phase. Finally, the third phase is where you focus in on key points and is based around action items.

That should give you some sense for what a retrospective is and why it’s important. To learn much, much more, tune in to this episode!

In This Episode:

[00:22] - We start off with a teach-and-learn moment about Vim.

[01:38] - Another of the panelists managed to teach someone sync settings on Atom, he explains.

[02:53] - What is a retro? In short, a meeting that is one of the recommended ceremonies in the Scrum framework. Its purpose is to look back on what happened over the course of the last sprint.

[03:55] - Somewhat surprisingly, retros don’t tend to devolve into blame games.

[05:36] - We learn about the etymological root of the word “retrospective,” and what that means in terms of these meetings.

[07:27] - The purpose of the retrospective is to do better during the next sprint. It allows you to make a plan for how to get better.

[08:54] - Who should go to the retrospective? Should anyone who isn’t part of the team show up?

[10:55] - The panelists discuss how long a retro generally takes.

{12:28] - We hear about the good things that can come out of a retro.

[16:09] - After the break, the panelists kick things off by talking about the phases of a retro.

[18:20] - In the brainstorming phase, does everyone write down ideas? If not, how do the ideas come up without allowing certain people to dominate the conversation? In response, the panelists also discuss the pros and cons of anonymity.

[22:11] - We move onto the part of the retro that involves identifying trends.

[23:17] - William expands on what he meant about this being the “yes, but” phase. They then discuss the tendency to pile onto the popular topics.

[25:58] - The third section of a retro involves action items.

[28:37] - When do you check on the previous retro’s action items?

[30:29] - One of the positives of the Scrum recommendations on which ceremonies to have is that they cover your bases. The panelists then discuss some reason why people may push back against Scrum.

[32:55] - We hear some tips and tricks for having a successful retro that runs smoothly.

[36:18] - The panelists share their closing thoughts on retros, including that every team should have one.

[36:58] - We hear the picks that the panelists want to discuss for the upcoming week.

Links and Resources:

Stride Consulting

Rabbit Hole on Twitter

Practical Vim: Edit Text at the Speed of Thought

Scrum