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Iteration Retrospective – A Collaborative Performance Improvement Tool

written by: Rupen Sharma, PMP • edited by: Marlene Gundlach • updated: 11/12/2013

Do you know how to improve your team’s performance after each iteration? In this article, you will learn a method that will enable your team to continuously improve after every Iteration.

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    What is an Iteration Retrospective and Why it is Important?

    Looking back into the past is a great way to learn lessons and make adjustments so that you can have a smoother future. In Agile projects, after every Iteration, the Agile team has an opportunity to look back on the iteration that was and take the learning into the next iteration. This planned opportunity is called an Iteration Retrospective. It enables an Agile team to continuously improve as the project progresses. An Iteration Retrospective is not a Six Sigma tool, but serves a similar purpose.

    An Iteration Retrospective is conducted at the end of an Iteration. The output of an Iteration Retrospective directly feeds into the planning of the next Iteration. Therefore, an Iteration Retrospective should be conducted after the completion of an Iteration, but before the start of the next Iteration.

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    Plan for the Iteration Retrospective

    During Iteration Planning, plan for a 30 to 60 minute meeting with the whole team at the end of the Iteration. Update the Communication Plan with details of this meeting. After you’ve planned for it, ensure you call the entire team, which includes the Product Owner, Developers, Testers, User Interface Engineers, and anyone else directly involved. However, this does not include the client. The Iteration Retrospective is strictly for your team, but during the retrospective you may use feedback from the client.

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    Conduct the Iteration Retrospective

    Before you start the meeting, ensure that every team member is clear on the goal of the Iteration Retrospective. You need to communicate to the team that this activity is not to point fingers at people, rather it is an activity that enables the Agile team to progressively improve.

    Create a worksheet on a whiteboard. In this sheet, you’ll have three columns as shown.IterationRetrospective Example 

    Now, get the team to retrospect on the iteration that was and take notes. By the end of the retrospective, you’ll have many useful suggestions which you can implement in future iterations.If you have a geographically dispersed team, then you’ll need to use a web collaborative tool, such as WebEx or GoToMeeting. These tools have a virtual whiteboard feature which is quite useful in such situations.

    Caution: Team members should be open enough provide valuable insights. If they aren't then the Iteration Retrospective will never serve its purpose. If this is the case, then you should first foster trust within team members.

    Please be sure to check out the other items in Bright Hub PM's collection of Agile project management guides and discussions.