The power of the introspective retrospective

The power of the introspective retrospective

In Agile practice, a retrospective is held after each sprint. A sprint retrospective opens a forum to the team to discuss what went well, what went wrong and what can be improved in the next sprint.

Throughout each one of our client teams, TouchFoundry team members form part of the extended-organisation by playing a role in respective team stand-ups, retros – and other Agile practices and ceremonies.

It is important that all team members know that they can voice their ideas to improve and benefit the current workplace systems.

However, after one of our recent internal Needs Analysis workshops, we collectively realised that, while we do a great job of individually subscribing ourselves to each of our clients, teams, products and visions, we have, at times, “lost the plot” in performing retrospectives of our very own, in order to maintain alignment around our core founding principles and values which are ultimately shared and transferred through to our wider client-base, in collaboration.

Our internal mantra has always informally stated that “we commit to doing our best work alongside great people and organisations“. Some of the other values which we hold in high regard, which might (hopefully!) be quite familiar to you are outlined on our Company Manifesto.

Thus we’ve introduced TouchFoundry Introspective Retrospectives. A time for us, internally, to align, share, learn, grow and strive to be better versions of ourselves, and not only for ourselves, but for the teams and organisations we work for.

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The importance of introspective retro’s are as follows:

1. Self improvement

Improving ourselves as a collective directly influences the relationship we have with our clients, and as a result, improves the quality of our output alongside them.

2. A happy team is a productive team

While some of the challenging factors that each of us are exposed to, on a daily basis throughout the multiple teams we work alongside with, may be out of our direct control or influence, we need to learn to optimise on the aspects which we can control, internally. This with bonus in that working on these introspections may even have an indirect, positive effect externally as well with our other teams as a result.

3. Knowledge and skillshare

Throughout our client stable – we have the pleasure of working on a wide range of technologies, spanning a lot varying, exciting industries – all across dynamic and diverse market and user segments. This makes us a power-house of practical know-how and expertise as we’ve simply “done a lot”. Of course each of our client’s IP, business know-how and trade secrets are always kept top priority and very clearly sandboxed/separated from one another. What we do have the benefit of leveraging off of, as a collective, is raw exposure to solving problems – be it via sharpening our pencils with new UX and UI principles and practices as we so often do, or in the fact that we get to introduce and offer modern technologies or workflows as solutions or tool to our clients, as we hone our skills in production. This is a value that each one of our clients have come to appreciate in working alongside us.

4. Pros, Cons and everything in between

As we grow as a team alongside our clients, so we grow as individuals. We want to use this opportunity to share what is working well and what isn’t working well across the stable so that we can take the “best of all” and refine those aspects. Likewise we may pick out pitfalls in other cases, and learn from those mistakes – working on how to avoid, or improve them in future.

5. A time to breathe, and reconnect

We don’t afford nearly as much time as we should to ourselves to “connect” as a team, due to our dedication to our clients and subscription to their visions, but this is very, very important. It allows us to self-reflect, share learnings, pros, cons, ups, downs, or simply just breathe and take stock of what we’ve accomplished. And more recently, pat ourselves on the back for our achievements. We don’t blow our horns typically, it’s not our style, but a round of high-fives are always in good order once we’ve solved problems for our clients, or reached new milestones in and amongst ourselves either personally or professionally. While we take the work that we do incredibly seriously we don’t want to run the risk of becoming our work, and for that we have to maintain our character by even just laughing a little more often.

6. Creates transparency within the team

The internal retro provides a forum to discuss the issues within the workplace, being transparent and honest will help to identify, discuss and address these issues.

7. Giving a voice to the team

Each team member can raise issues that are important to them and voice their opinions on any issue. It is important that all team members know that they can voice their ideas to improve and benefit the current workplace systems.

8. Identify the problems within the team early

By having an internal retro every 2 weeks, new problems that arise within the workplace can be addressed early. This will help the team to hash out internal issues within the teams or the worksystems in place and turn the problem into a solution!

9. Boosting team morale

By opening up the floor to speak one’s mind, it also boosts the team morale – improvements to the internal work processes help to ensure that the ship is sailing smoothly and that all the team members are happy and productive.

Every 2 weeks, a focus group is selected for discussion in the retrospective. All issues within the retrospective are reviewed, discussed and possible solutions are noted.

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The TouchFoundry Internal Retrospective practice

1. Identification of issues

The cardinal questions in any retrospective is:

  • What went well?
  • What went bad?
  • What can be improved?

The same questions are asked when identifying new issues to be logged. New issues are written on a color coded cards.

2. Grouping of issues

Once all the new issues have been logged and ticketed they are grouped into the various focus groups:

  • Workflows and Processes
  • Communication
  • Time Management
  • Office Housekeeping
  • Project Management Tools

3. Rating the importance of issues within each group

Each issue within the group is rated according to the importance of the issue to the team. Once the team has rated all the issues, they are re-organised according to priority: high – low.

4. Addressing issues within selected group

Every 2 weeks, a focus group is selected for discussion in the retrospective. All issues within the retrospective are reviewed, discussed and possible solutions are noted.

5. Rating of addressed group

Once all the issues have been addressed, the focus group is rated on the internal rating system. The system is a numbered system starting at 0 (very bad) to 10 (the goal to achieve perfection).

6. Flashback on previous sprint

In the beginning of every retrospective, a flashback session to the previous retro’s is done, this will give the team time to re-evaluate their previous ratings of the focus groups. The groups are rated again based on improvement or lack of improvement of issues within the group.

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In short – a practice in progress! Like everything we do, we look forward to iterating on this process and improving it.

We’d advise everyone kickstart internal introspective retros in their teams today, if not already in place. With what we believe to be a time to be mindful, a time to come together as a team and focus on the introspective retrospective – together we are able to unlock the key to colleague happiness, customer satisfaction and ultimately project success.

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