I believe retrospectives can be a powerful component to building an organization focused on agility and continuous improvement. But beyond asking what we can do better and what we should stop doing, the retrospective can also become a time of acknowledgment and an oasis in an otherwise stressful and demanding world.
First, the retrospective can become a setting for sincere gratitude. Time and time again I have seen team members use retrospectives to thank others for what they have done for them or how they helped them solve a challenging problem. The teammates who receive this small acknowledgement walk away with a little spring in their step. Powerful, connected teams emerge from a state of gratefulness.
There have been times during a retrospective when someone would state, “I don’t have anything to say.” or “Everything was good.” When this happens, I would usually ask the question, “Well, what are you grateful for?” There is always a response and this often leads to others opening up to what they are thankful for as well.
Second, the retrospective can also trigger a fresh start. It gives the team a chance to reflect and learn from the past but try again with a blank slate. Not after 3, 6, or 9 months at the end of a project, if ever, but after a couple of weeks at the end of each and every sprint. We are imperfect humans, working in imperfect organizations, working with imperfect technology. Software development is hard and building teams is harder. Working in an environment in which we can naturally rebound from mistakes and inefficiencies promotes vibrancy and represents natural patterns of renewal.
Periodically, take the time at the end of a retrospective to remind the team of the amazing opportunity to renew. After capturing what changes will be made next sprint, perhaps do something symbolic with the “let’s stop doing” cards people wrote. I wouldn’t advocate tossing them in a trash bin and lighting them on fire but you know what I mean!
Continuous improvement, a true sense of being grateful for each other, and a cadence of renewal – who wouldn’t want that work in that type of environment?