History Of Project Retrospectives

Submitted By tnpete
Words: 3172
Pages: 13

Literature Review - Retrospectives

Abstract Almost everything we do can probably be done better. This holds true to project retrospectives. Many people are involved in a project, working to plan, assign work, develop, test and deliver the product to the stakeholders. With so many people and processes involved, along with the importance of sometimes multi-million dollar projects, there is always a need to improve upon the process. During the project and after full completion, the team should get together and discuss key topics of their progress. They should discuss what is going well and what is not going so well. For those that are going well, they work to continue that successful path. For those not going so well, they would come up with a correction to learn from the difficulty or mistake, then make the appropriate corrections. The project retrospective is just such a tool. It is used by management and team members alike to look back on how a project was conducted, both learning from what went well and what they can do to improve upon for the next project.

Introduction The focus for this paper will be to introduce the reader to Agile project retrospectives. The many aspects of a retrospective will be presented and discussed including; the origin of the retrospective , what makes up a retrospective, why it is needed, different types of retrospectives, what it takes to lead one, preparation, leading a retrospective, exercises and the postmortem. Retrospectives, when conducted properly, can be extremely effective in a project. The outcome of a useless retrospective can bleed into the next project’s results, whereas the outcome of a successful retrospective can be reflected in following successful projects.
What is a Retrospective? Beedle et al. (2001) developed and outlined the Agile Manifesto’s principles. One of those principles is that at regular intervals, the project team members should come together to discuss how the project went and how to use those points to improve the next project. A retrospective is just that. It is a meeting consisting of the team members who partook in a project development exercise. They get together to discuss different aspects of the project, be it positive or negative. Several questions are asked during a retrospective that will bring out what went did not go right and what went well. Applying those replies to the questions is key to a successful retrospective. They need to be acted upon for the subsequent retrospectives. According to Davies (2007), the term retrospective was first coined by Norman Kerth. In his book, Kerth (2001) tells us he felt the word application in using retrospective was better fitting than others chosen in the past, such as postmortem or post-partum. Both of these terms have meanings in Latin that deal with life and death, not related to a project. He felt they imparted a negative connotation to the meeting before it even started. The term retrospective does not bring to the meeting any perception of success or failure. It is a term that implies thought, which just what it is meant to be in a retrospective meeting. A retrospective is a meeting in which past performance is analyzed to improve future projects. It is a meeting where everyone feels safe and secure in openly commenting on what went right with the past project and also what went wrong. The latter can be dangerous, given the improper individual attitudes of the team members. With that, a retrospective needs to be led by an individual, or facilitator, who is qualified to do so. Both of those last points will be discussed later.
Why is it Needed?
A project manager, along with its team members, are always looking forward to improving upon their results and delivery. The retrospective is a great tool for just that purpose. When led properly, the team can express their thoughts and views, whether negative or positive, and they can be used to improve the next