All posts by Martin Wickman

Agile Scrum Meetings – Generate Insights With Retrospectives

You're well on your way to becoming a full-fledged Agile Scrum retrospective meeting Jedi Master. At least if you've followed along. Let's look at the third step of the meeting: The Generate Insights step.

In the previous part, you learned all about how and where to look for data from the sprint your team just completed. You're now armed with lots of interesting data -- events, feelings, metrics and so on. It's time to make some sense out of it!

A QUICK REMINDER

Your retrospective meeting flows through five steps. The result from each step is used as input to the next. Think of these steps as your meeting agenda.

  • First, there is Set the Stage. You introduce the meeting and get everyone into the groove.
  • Next up is the Gather Data step. Now it's time to look back at what happened and scrounge up as much data as possible.
  • Then, it's the Generate Insights step (hint: this here page!). Here the team uses the data they found to connect the dots, see patterns and connections
  • In the fourth part, it's time for Actions. Based on the insights, the team should come up with a bunch of actions... these are ideas and solutions (root causes) they should work on in the next sprint
  • And finally, you Wrap Up the meeting: Summarize and thank everyone for their time.

With the results from the Gather Data step, the team now knows WHAT happened, and it’s time to find out WHY it happened. It’s time to take a deeper look, find connections and patterns in the data and come up with issues to address.

The goal now is to create a list of improvements. This time, the group must think together, maybe for the first time. A good rule of thumb is to spend 15-20 minutes here (for a one-hour meeting, that is).

This part of the meeting consists of two distinct steps.

  1. The first is to look at all the data and find problem causes.
  2. The second (and shorter) step is to analyse these causes and come up with improvement ideas.

Dig up Problem Causes

Try to stay away from finding obvious, shallow solutions. You should be looking for a-ha moments. Dig a bit deeper.

To get at the real problem, be prepared to dig a little

Maybe the first couple of solutions that pop up is not powerful enough to fix the problem they are looking at? So, look for underlying causes, stuff that is not obvious: root causes.

LET'S LOOK AT AN EXAMPLE

It turns out all the wonderful stuff your team is creating also have lots of defects. Each release comes back with more bugs than the last one.....

What could be the reason for that?

Let's guess: They need to write more tests, to create more automated tests for their system?

Hold on a minute now. That COULD indeed be the case, but remember.... you should look deeper into it and question WHY there aren't enough tests already?

Digging into it a bit and you may find out that the group doesn't have enough testing skills or they simply don’t like using tests in the first place.

And that’s probably the real cause for this we-have-so-many-defects problem

An activity that can help you find what’s behind it all is to ask the question ”Why?” and then keep asking follow-up questions until you reach the real issue.

Don’t go too far though. You may end up trying to fix things that are out of your hands, like the Big Bang or because it rained that day or something like that....

This asking-follow-up-questions activity is called 5 Whys. This is just one activity you can use. There are others as well, which you’ll learn about later. 

ARE YOU A SCRUM MASTER, TEAM LEAD OR COACH?

Then you owe it to yourself - and your team - to learn this stuff. I highly recommend you check out the complete course on agile scrum meetings.

Effective meetings course on all devices

The course teaches you everything there is to know about running awesome retrospectives. It also includes guides and step-by-step instructions to my personal favorite meeting activities that I know works. Check it out here!

Find Improvements the Team Can Work With

When you’ve found the root cause(s), it’s time to come up with a bunch of improvements that can be used to fix them.

Ding! What'd you know, let's crank up the idea generator

In other words: turning problems into solutions. This part is often quite straightforward, so it should go pretty quick. Pick a short activity, like brainstorming, to help the group find some improvements based on the problem causes.

LET'S CONTINUE THE EXAMPLE...

So.... your group needs more automated tests. The core reason for that is they don't want to write tests ("it takes too long"). And the reason for that is the group lack testing skills.

Now write down the question "How can we improve our testing skills?" on the whiteboard. Then run a brainstorming session based on that.

There are several variations on this activity. For new teams, I recommend you simply point at the question and then prompt them to start. Don't say anything, just write down what they say. Stay away from discussions. Just write it down. Keep doing this until ideas stop coming

You should end up with a list of potential ideas for how they can improve their testing skills.

When you have a list of possible improvements, write them down so you have them ready for the next step, turning improvements into actions.

That’s it for the Generate Insights step. Excellent! You're almost done with the meeting, so DON'T MISS the next part.