Agile at Home: Retrospectives
We are now about 3 months into wearing face masks, remote working, and spending A LOT of time with our families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Everhart household, my wife and I are both working remotely full time, and our 7-year-old son is doing remote learning. Although I am sure that we all deeply love and appreciate our families, close quarters for a prolonged period can potentially brew some tension. With that in mind, let’s take a look at our Agile toolkit and see what we can leverage to reduce some stress and make our lives a bit more enjoyable.
One Agile tool that could be useful to reduce tension in your household and make the current circumstances more bearable is the sprint retrospective. (Sprint is an Agile term for a defined period of time.) A sprint retrospective is a ceremony that takes place at the end of a sprint, where a team gathers and reflects on what went well, what didn’t go well, and what can be changed to be better. It’s not a time to point fingers or place blame. Instead, it’s about identifying what’s working well and what could work better next time.
Retrospectives can be run in many ways, including in a very straightforward manner, where you gather what everyone thinks, vote on which topics warrant further discussion, and decide on action items from those discussions.
Make It Fun
If you’re implementing retrospectives in your household, especially if you have children, I’d recommend going with an approach that’s a bit more fun. For example, the retrospective discussion could be framed around the three little pigs. You would identify your house of straw, house of sticks, and house of stone.
- Your house of straw would include things that occur that can be easily knocked down.
- Your house of sticks would include things that the family does well but could use some improvement.
- Your house of stone would include things that the family does exceptionally well.
With these things identified as a family, you would vote on which of them is the most important to discuss further, have the discussion, and determine the action items so that you can initiate change.
Use Retrospective Action Items to Make a Plan
After running this retro format with my family, we determined one of our house of straw items was chores. We’re all fairly guilty of neglecting them, so our action item was to get out our trusty Kanban board that we had been using for schoolwork and leverage it to keep everyone accountable for the chores that they’re responsible for. So far, it’s worked out pretty well. We’re all being held accountable, and it’s very easy to see the status of the day’s chores.
An important note about retrospectives and the action items that come out of them—they don’t need to be drastic changes. If you come away from your retrospective with small incremental changes, that’s great. The upside to having a smaller action item is that you will be able to analyze if the change was effective and how you can adopt further change to capitalize on the gains. If you try to change too much at once, the likelihood of success will drop. This can lead to demoralization and further reduce the willingness to change. When it comes to setting action items, I’m reminded of the old adage, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”
Give It a Try!
If retrospectives sound like something that you’d like to try with your family, I’d recommend checking out Fun Retrospectives for some engaging retrospective ideas and formats.
If you found this blog post to be helpful, you might be interested in my first blog post in the “Agile at Home” series about how you can leverage Kanban to make the remote learning experience a bit easier.
Chris Everhart is the Agile Manager at SentryOne. He works directly with the Product Management Team and the Product Engineering Team to ensure that Agile practices are adhered to and assists the teams in identifying processes and practices that can be improved. Chris is responsible for facilitating Scrumban ceremonies and generally assisting in any way that he can.