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This chapter is from the book


In this book, I describe what retrospectives are and how to use them to establish a process of continuous improvement. Looking back into the past is only a part of a retrospective, and not even the most important. Retrospectives should be used to help you gain insights and try new things, to create and carry out experiments and to question them, too. That is the best way to support a goal-oriented and meaningful process of continuous improvement and constant learning.

Although retrospectives are still most commonly used in working life, as at the end of projects or in the form of “heartbeat” retrospectives in agile teams, they can be usefully applied to any area of life, as in our New Year’s Eve retrospective.

A six-phase process that defines the framework for retrospectives will help you to make retrospectives as effective as possible:

  • Set the Stage

  • Check Hypotheses

  • Gather Data

  • Generate Insights

  • Define Experiments

  • Closing

Each phase can be brought to life with a range of activities, which, when regularly changed, will bring fresh energy and ideas into the process. You can either design these activities yourself or turn to one of the many books or websites available.

Starting retrospectives by reading out the Prime Directive can help to prepare the ground for a successful retrospective, but you should remember that doing so does not guarantee a successful outcome.

Ultimately, the success of a retrospective lies with the facilitator and the participating team. In the chapters that follow, I describe the keys to success and the common pitfalls to avoid.

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