My friend Chris Matts stirred me up with the following:
One for you to think about for your Blog.
I consider retrospectives to be an anti-pattern. If you are learning great stuff in your retrospectives, it means that your communication is blocked. They are “batches” of “feedback”. I prefer single piece flow of “feedback”.
Last summer there was a big discussion of retrospectives on the Kanban list. I asked the question….. “Has anyone learnt anything as a result of a retrospective that at least one member of the group did not know about before?” So far, no examples.
Last year, my tech lead wanted to address an issue with one of his developers. He wanted to leave it to the retrospective.
If your team members are saying I’m sorry, I love you, Thank you in the moment rather than leaving it to the following day, then you may find that retrospectives are of little value.
My experience of retrospectives is that they are a place for developers to find their voice, and managers to ignore them. Managers like them because “The developers get it off their chest”.
Needless to say, I agree a bit, and mostly disagree.
Chris and I discussed this on the phone. First qualification from Chris: he is thinking about highly developed teams. Okay – I can see that with some highly developed teams, they may indeed learn to express themselves well on an ongoing basis. Of course, based on the folks I know – even the most highly developed – there are some things that are hard to deal with directly, one-on-one, or in an unstructured group environment like a team room.
Then there’s the idea of retrospectives being an antipattern. I just disagree. I suppose it could be, when used as a crutch or when turned into routine. If a team does something they call retrospectives, but every time they throw up two pieces of flipchart paper and do smiley/frowney or smiley/double-smiley or any other activity/technique every time, then I’d say they are not really using retrospectives to improve their process and team functioning. Is that an antipattern? Or a smell?
Chris and I tentatively agreed that it’s a smell.
Needless to say, I’m all for effective communication on a daily basis, and on not harboring negative feelings any longer than necessary. At the same time, I believe strongly that there’s a place for structured and facilitated activity, no matter how highly developed the team and individuals, to allow for the team to deal with those things that just don’t come out.
Finally, if done well/properly, retrospectives help a team be more effective, which means delivering better software on time and under budget. What manager wouldn’t be happy with that?