Many product delivery teams know retrospectives (aka retros ) from their natural cycle of work, whether in iterations (e.g. Scrum) or in flow-based contexts (e.g. Lean Kanban). The more the team introspects the higher the value of the retrospective. How much they are prepared to do this, depends on where they are in the team development lifecycle. More about this in another article though. This one is about the extra agile version of retrospectives.
The inadvertent complacency of cyclical continuous improvement
We all know about the concept of continuous improvement. Sometimes when we get settled in our ways our minds are left believing that having retrospectives on a regular basis is all that’s needed to continuously improve. Well, it’s certainly a good start. The thing is, most teams only improve their ways of working in retros, and people even either not think about improvements in between retros or defer offering improvement suggestions until the retro. So as a unit the team can be somewhat complacent in the continuous improvement department, because the next proper retro will come eventually.
Continuous improvement is a general mindset thought that we can practice even in the smallest instances. Let’s take something very regular for example; stand-ups. When was the last time the quality of your stand-ups was improved in a retro? Exactly.
The big power of micro-retros
The concept is almost mundane, and in this simplicity lies the power. At the end of e.g. a stand-up the team leader/facilitator/coach asks the team “How did today’s stand-up go?”. Often the response is “It went well.” or “It was good.” That’s the easy way out. Here’s where the team leader/facilitator/coach needs to follow up and enquire not only “What was good about it?”, and also “How can we make tomorrow’s even better?”. If you’re a new team, doing this regularly in the beginning until the stand-ups are running well is very effective. As an existing team you could have a few micro-retros every 2-3 months or so to raise awareness and help to avoid stand-ups become stagnant.
Besides stand-ups, you can use this for regular meetings (weekly, fortnightly, monthly ones); groups who have those sometimes don’t even have dedicated retrospectives so where would improvement come from?