At Agile 2007, I attended Jean Tabaka’s “Why I don’t like Mondays”. In this session, Jean emphasized the importance of a meeting purpose and agenda. At the time I thought “Well my meetings use the standard Scrum agendas and we get a lot of value out of the meetings.” Wow was I ever wrong. I bought Jean’s book Collaboration Explained and found a revised set of Agendas.
It’s fun to compare the standard review and retrospective agenda
- The team demos the product.
- What went well? Often a round robin.
- What went poorly? another round robin.
- What could we improve next time? yet another round robin.
Stunningly we discovered only the obvious issues and did little to fix them.
Compare with what we use now:
Purpose: To demonstrate potentially shippable functionality completed by the team during the sprint, to update the Product Backlog based on the demo and to learn about team practices to keep, change or add.
Outputs: Updated Product Backlog with new items and priorities, any new team practices, recommendations for the next sprint.
- The core point is to show respect for your fellow team members.
- No email or surfing the web.
- No side conversations (via IM etc)
- No cellphones or blackberries
- Join the meeting on time (Global Crossing issues aside)
Agenda for the Review and Retrospective:
- What was our commitment for the sprint?
- What was our final set of completed items?
- What is our demonstration of these items?
- What was our final burndown chart?
- What did we learn about our estimates?
- What changes are there in the Product backlog items, priorities or estimates?
- What documented issues/concerns were we able to address? (i.e. from our last retrospective).
- What are our current issues/concerns?
- What worked well that we’d do again?
- What practices would we alter or drop?
- What new practices would we want to introduce next sprint?
- Based on our last two weeks work what appreciations do we have for individuals? In/outside the team someone who had a particularly valuable affect on our success.
- What is our Action Plan?
- Have we met the purpose we set out today?
What a difference – we discover new problems and since we have an action plan with people responsible for each item. Things tend to get done. Wow.
To quote one of my team members “the old review and retrospective agenda didn’t help remind her what happened and where we ended up. By breaking things down into smaller more focused chunks the new agenda (and prompting questions) has made our retrospectives more valuable”. Another has said that finally the planning meetings leave them with confidence that we’ve planned well. I just feel ashamed for having taken so long to discover I was running bad meetings.
The agendas in Jean’s book Collaboration Explained also include prompt questions – which help focus peoples minds on the question. Finally I will add that the agendas (she covers Scrum, XP, Crystal) are only a handy appendix at the end of an amazing book. My copy is dog eared.
Caveat Emptor – if you buy Jean’s book after clicking on my link I get 4% of the price. Buy many copies so I can afford to replace my worn out copy.
Mark Levison has been helping Scrum teams and organizations with Agile, Scrum and Kanban style approaches since 2001. From certified scrum master training to custom Agile courses, he has helped well over 8,000 individuals, earning him respect and top rated reviews as one of the pioneers within the industry, as well as a raft of certifications from the ScrumAlliance. Mark has been a speaker at various Agile Conferences for more than 20 years, and is a published Scrum author with eBooks as well as articles on InfoQ.com, ScrumAlliance.org an AgileAlliance.org.