Reclaim Your Retro!

Reclaim Your Retro!

TL;DR: Your team needs to drop retrospective meetings and use that time for self-organized improvement.

To make that work your project management / communications tool must help avoid meeting overhead.

Now for the long bit.

Why Retrospective Meetings Fail

  1. Anything prioritized alongside feature stories will lose the prioritization battle, as they don’t directly make money.
  2. Making decisions by team meeting is too expensive for the limited time available. You need one meeting to set the agenda, a second to decide on priorities, a third to approve implementations, a fourth for review and a fifth to answer questions.
  3. Mandatory meetings don’t result in self-organized work as we explain in another blog. You can make self-organizing a principle of your organization but mandating how to self-organize is as autocratic as it gets.

As a result most retros become about chatting about the last iteration instead of getting improvement stories assigned and done.

Why Ad Hoc Efforts Fail

Process debt is “a sub-optimal activity or process that might have short-term benefits, but generates a negative impact in the medium-long term”.

Short-term having a conversational retrospective every Sprint may yield the same sense of accomplishment as devoting a stand-up to status. Medium-long term the work that only self-organizing can tackle piles up like tinder waiting for a forest fire.

In many organizations retro process debt is paid off in add hoc spurts: a single engineer, skunk works style, does some heavy lifting to refit the backend, or there’s a ‘tech debt month’, or a team does innovation in a hackathon.

The problem with these extraordinary efforts is that they are rarely incorporated in an organization’s reward structure. There’s your job which you get paid for, and then there are these events outside regular process. Enough is done to pay of some process debt interest, but nobody’s life really improves.

Pick the Tools and Process that Work

You need process and tools for approving and organizing work among a group of peers, that don’t take much time.

You may have meetings occasionally, but you need a project management software designed to make sure you don’t waste those meetings on overhead and poorly defined agendas. Jira is so anti-communication it doesn’t even let you reply to a comment. Free form software like email and group chat make attempting important interactions in them very unpleasant.

Meetings are a tool; not a communications cure all. At Uclusion, we’ve spent years bootstrapping an alternative to help you where meetings cannot.

Ben Follis
Ben Follis Co-Founder of Uclusion