Book Review: Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives

Printer-friendly version

Retrospectives are one of the more valuable and more neglected agile practices. Some teams struggle to take the time to have retrospectives. Others have the retrospectives but don't get a lot of value out of them. Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives: A Toolbox of Retrospective Exercises, by Luis Gonçalves and Ben Linders, is a tool you can use to keep your retrospectives engaging and useful.

Even if your team believes in and embraces the retrospective process, it's easy for everyone to fall into a routine if you use the same activities. Facilitating good retrospectives is a balance between using a familiar enough format so people feel comfortable and keeping the process fresh enough so that people stay engaged and discover new things. This book delivers what it promises—a catalog of retrospective activities that you can use to keep your retrospectives fresh and effective.

The activities follow a format that helps you quickly identify when and how to use each of them. Many activities in the book are cross-referenced with each other and with external sources. The authors generously give credit to others whose work they have built upon and provide references to other sources you can use to improve your retrospectives. Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives also has a brief section at the end with general guidelines for retrospectives.

If you are just learning about retrospectives, this is not a good "first" book. Esther Derby's and Diana Larsen's book Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great is still the first place I look for guidance on how to structure a retrospective and suggestions for activities. Even though not focused on retrospectives per se, Instant Creativity: Simple Techniques to Ignite Innovation & Problem Solving can provide some ideas for activities for retrospectives.

Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews is a classic that any retrospective facilitator should read. Its focus is on longer-form retrospectives, but the principles are the same. In fact, starting out an agile retrospective with a reference to the Retrospective Prime Directive is a good practice.

Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives is a good addition to these other resources. Skim the book to get a sense of what's there, and then use it as a reference as you plan your next retrospective. You may be doing well with the same set of activities you have now. But as your team progresses, you may need more options. This book will help you keep your retrospectives fresh.

Printer-friendly version

Something to say? Leave a Comment

Steve Berczuk

Steve Berczuk is a Principal Engineer and ScrumMaster at Fitbit in Boston, MA. He is the author of Software Configuration Management Patterns: Effective Teamwork, Practical Integration, and has an M.S. in operations research from Stanford University and an S.B. in Electrical Engineering from MIT.