Thursday, April 16, 2009

Book Review: Agile Retrospectives – Making Good Teams Great

Retrospectives are a critical part of agile methodology and this book is a must read for anyone doing anything agile. I would go further and say that this book is also a must read for anyone involved in any flavour of project management. In fact, I’d strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve the way they do things! There is much talk these days about learning organisations and then much gnashing of teeth about how hard that is to achieve in practice; my advice is: buy this book and start doing retrospectives as often as possible, in projects, team meetings, events, even by yourself at the end of a week.

Retrospectives help us inspect what we have done, what went well and what went less well, and adapt so that we do things better next time. I am sure this sounds logical to everyone yet it amazes me how infrequently retrospectives are used. Even if they take place it is often at the very end of a project (a “post-mortem”) when it is way too late to do anything differently. Moreover, even though most retrospectives identify what went well and less well, they often fail to result in any action. So we continue to make the same mistakes instead of learning from them.

This is a practical book with tips on how to do retrospectives and make them more effective. It makes it easy for anyone with basic facilitation skills to run retrospectives. The book starts with a simple process of 5 steps to follow in any session. The rest of the book describes 30 activities organised per step that help to structure the retrospective and get the most from the group. There’s also some handy tips and tricks for facilitating, even including a checklist of office supplies needed for a successful session.

Perhaps one of the best features of this book, at least if you buy it directly from the publishers (Pragmatic Programmers), is the DRM-free pdf version that sells alongside the print. If you buy this you can print out the activities you plan to use at a session as an aide memoire for yourself or as a handout for the participants. What a great idea! It is terrific to see a publisher that truly understands what it’s products are used for. If you have bought the book in a shop or from a leading online purveyor, you can download the eBook pdf at a discount. Just go here. You are prompted to fill in the first word on a random page in the book in order to qualify for the discount.

PS Check out Esther’s blog here

Twitternovels version: ask not what your project has done for you: ask what went well, what went less well, & what will I do differently next time

Agile Retrospectives – Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen

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