One of the fundamental agile principles is the inspect-and-adapt approach. Remember the first statement in the agile manifesto, even before the four values: We are uncovering better ways of creating value by doing it and helping others do it.
Enters the retrospective.
A retrospective is a meeting held regularly by the project team to discuss what happened in the current project phase (the inspect part) and how the next phase can be improved / the successes integrated by using the lessons learned (the adapt phase).
Since the project is split into iterations, it makes only sense to held such meetings at the end of every iteration.
Retrospectives can be done in many different ways and are a subject on its own, you can find many available resources: books, wikis, templates. Feel free to experiment and to find the one better fitting your team and organisation.
The important points for a successful retrospective are:
- The retrospective happens regularly. If you have short iterations (one week maybe) you may decide to have a retrospective every second iteration but you should keep the rhythm: it’s like the heart beating pulse.
- The goal of the meeting shall be to answer the question “how can we improve the next iteration and the way we work on a short term”? Important: focus on short term and identify and set small and actionable improvements. Continuous learning.
- You can discuss about anything but usually it’s the process, the plan, the tasks, the relationships among people and the tools. Yes, you can improve the process, it’s not written in stone.
- The team comes up with a plan for improving things in the future.
- The retrospective is time-boxed. The recommended time box for the iteration retrospective is one hour per week of iteration duration. You may split it if it takes more than two hours (difficult to maintain the concentration for the team).
- Make clear this Prime Directive before the retrospective:
Everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
Here an example of what you can find after a retrospective: smells of the daily meeting.