Why Retrospectives?

Jim BensonExpert1 Comment

Small adjustments can make all the difference.

Small adjustments can make all the difference.

In both Agile and Lean management there are points called “retrospectives,” regular and ritualized moments where a team stops to reflect. Checking processes for only a few minutes lets you re-orient the course of your work. These retrospectives allow a team the opportunity not only to celebrate or bemoan accomplishments or setbacks, but likewise to serve as a constructive way to create and direct their course.  A retrospective shows us that things either went well or they didn’t, understanding that either way, there is always room for plotting the effectiveness of future work.

Over the past few months, I’ve spoken with many people who’ve begun to use personal kanban. During the course of this thread, many of them have shared how they’ve started to deploy Kanban as a collaborative tool, using it to plan, prioritize, and do work both at home and in their place of business. Now we have to go that last step – we have to think about what we’ve done.

Whether it’s on our own, with our families, or with a team, a retrospective is vital in being able to identify, elucidate, and enact positive change. Retrospectives can take place at whatever intervals you are comfortable with, and for whatever period of time. Again, I’m not writing a how-to manual here, these tools should help you or your group manage tasks in a way that works best for you.

We can – and will – discuss a range of options for what a retrospective might look like.  But just like a kanban can reside on a white board, a piece of paper, a computer screen, or even a kitchen appliance, a retrospective is what works at the time.  If you are just finishing a project in the garage or on day 4 of hurricane disaster relief, checking your processes for only a few minutes will let you improve what you’re doing

You don’t have to fly to Pluto to gain from small course corrections. You want to always be fine-tuning your workflow and your work management. In upcoming posts, I’ll talk about a variety of retrospective styles – some that are thought exercises and others with statistical rigor. Whatever you prefer, there should be one for you and your team.

Note: When Kanban is working really well, and you have an intimate understanding of your work, then you will achieve what Lean calls a “kaizen state,”  a culture of continuous improvement. At that point, you are constantly doing retrospectives simply because you are so aware of your actions, and a such, a separate retrospective may not be necessary.

NewHorizons2015 is NASA’s Pluto Mission – which requires both course corrections and a whole lot of delayed gratification.

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Jim BensonWhy Retrospectives?

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