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A Retrospective

A retrospective

The team were always a little tense, stressed after doing the review meeting, and going straight into the retrospective it was always a little subdued and quiet. Therefore it became important that the retrospective was a time for the team to relax and have a little fun. To create the right atmosphere for the team to be able to be reflective and creative.

In the beginning there was a tendency for the team to rush through the retrospective so that we could get on with the planning. Due to this there was very little reflection and more about ‘going through the motions’ to tick that box in our scrum maturity checklist – which was very much the wrong approach.  Therefore the team did not see the value of the retro. At this point it was necessary to improve the retro and to add value, otherwise the retro could have been dropped all together.

I was given advice to keep changing the way that we did the retro and I found a surprisingly large amount of on-line resources. I enjoyed looking for new and interesting ways to do the retrospective, and the team enjoyed the surprise of what I was going to ask them to do next.

Another piece of advice was to keep track of the actions from the retrospective. In the beginning the actions were abandoned to a lonely section of wall, where we would maybe look at them. The change we made here was to add them to the main scrum wall and at the beginning of each retrospective we would review the previous sprint actions and at the end of each retrospective we would review the new actions and assign responsibilities.

The more interactive the exercises were, I found that we got more out of the team on how they felt about the previous sprint and how they would like to improve the next sprint. Exercises that involved drawing were very popular, but the most popular was the gingerbread man decorating (which honestly had little to do with the retrospective and more about having fun just before the holiday).

Retrospective exercises

“Postcards from the sprint” was very popular for doing the ‘thanks you’s’ and ‘how you felt about the last sprint’. For this you need a plain card for each participant. On one side you write the following:

After team have finished the postcard you mix them up and hand them out to different participants. The team then have to draw a picture that illustrates what was written on the other side. After this everyone reads out their post card and shows the picture. Lots of surprising and funny results and a more relaxing and less intimidating (for the more shy participants).

A good reflective exercise was the “hot air balloon”. Draw a picture of a hot air balloon, with a storm on the top left and the sun on the top right. To reflect on the last sprint: at the bottom of the picture where the balloon was tied down write “what was holding us down/ back”, where the fire to heat the air is write “what lifted us up/ kept us moving forward”. For reflecting on the sprint head; on the storm write “what is ahead of us that is going to cause us turbulence?” and on the sun write “what is going to keep us up and ahead”. Invite the team to write on post-it notes for each of these four topics. Review each of the post it notes and put actions in where appropriate.



A retro on the retro

At the end of each retrospective I would always invite feedback from the team on the retrospective itself, so that I could keep improving on the retrospectives. A quick way of doing it was to ask the team to write 2 – 3 words down on a post it note and put it on the door as they were leaving. Some did not work as well as others, but you learn from it too.

As a final note, a packet of biscuits or sweets always cheered the team up and motivated them!

In summary

  • Food
  • Keep changing the exercises
  • Make it fun
  • Keep track of actions
  • Get feedback on the retrospective




What is Agile and why should you adopt Agile?

What is Agile?

Agile is an alternative to traditional sequential software development (waterfall) where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organising and cross-functional teams. Agile methodology helps teams respond to unpredictability through incremental and iterative work cycle

Why Adopt Agile?

In today’s world, market and technology scenario are changing rapidly. Shrinking ‘time to market’ of new products/features and increased innovation from customer end necessitates incremental development with feedback. I order to reduce ‘time to market’ organisations need to reduce of testing or experimentation cost (simulation and automation). Therefore there is a need for an adaptive method of software development rather than traditional, predictive methods where customer value is delivered at the point of sale, not at the point of plan.

What are the benefits of Agile Adoption?

The following video will show the benefits of agile adoption. Watch this video which explains the software development with and without Agile.

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Agile – How to abuse it?

Many people have abused the term “Agility” by using it as an excuse for undisciplined practices. Some people wrongly believe that Agility means these things:

Don’t document anything!

– The documentation that an Agile project produces is significantly different from what traditional projects produce. An Agile team will always ask why various documents are needed. But they always document (in unique ways) their plans, requirements, designs, and whichever other artifacts provide value.

Agile need to No planning!

– Agile projects actually engage in more planning than most traditional projects. They produce a high-level plan during project initiation, and they re-visit and adapt that high-level plan regularly throughout the project. They produce a plan of what they will do during each iteration of development, and they meet daily to check their progress and plan the day’s work.

Just build something! (without capturing requirements)

– The Agile team’s Product Owner (customer) defines a Product Vision, and they work together to document the product’s high-level requirements (called the product backlog). Then, more detailed views of those requirements are elaborated upon and documented as they are needed throughout the project.

No control over budget or schedule

– Agile projects always operate within a “Time-Box.” That is, they have definitive start- and end-dates and are not expected to violate those dates. And because people’s time is the largest part of a software project’s budget, the time-box limits the project budget as well. The Agile mantra is, “We will deliver the greatest possible customer value within the project constraints!”

Developers come from wild west (doing whatever they want)

– The Customer has primary control over an Agile project. The customer is involved in all aspects of planning, prioritization, and status keeping throughout an Agile project. If the project team is not producing what the customer finds to be valuable, it is up to that person to re-direct the work. The team’s only role is to estimate what can be done in limited timeframes. The team’s customer determines how that effort will be directed.

If you see any of above signs in your team, it’s time to stop pretending and get real. Its time to seek help from an experienced agile coach. I would like to thank Alan Koch for sharing his thoughts.

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Applying PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act)

Making improvements successfully and continuously is a very difficult task, which can get you caught up in a tangle of work with no progress. A lot of the time the process of improving can start due to a fire fighting approach. Due to the complexity and risks involved in businesses, changes made in the name of improvements can lead to unforeseen effects. Furthermore, improvement tasks can get tangled and drag on, leading to opportunity costs in other areas.

The most profitable entertainment industry, gaming, and the riskiest industry, healthcare, have managed to work through the complicated improvement process by making it systematic. They use a method called Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA). As the Deming, the creator of PDCA, says, ‘the key is to have clearly defined repeatable processes.’ You’ll find many similarities between PDCA and Agile in their iterative approach.


Many of you may have noticed a select group of gamers getting very excited months before the release of a game. Why so early? They were selected to trial the beta. A small group of people are given an unfinished copy of a game that is being completed and asked to play it through and give the developers feedback. Due to the number of beta gamers, and how picky they are about the smallest of errors or glitches, a lot of feedback is given. Even the tiniest of glitches are highlighted. Within a few weeks a new patch is released for the beta game. This is tested again by the gamers for faults. These are basically the Do-Check iterations in PDCA. Game developers do not want to risk releasing a game with any glitches due to the high standards expected of them by their customers as well as the difficulty of rolling out patches across all the millions of copies they predict to sell. This method not only teases their target audience, but gives them testers or ‘checkers’ for free.


In the healthcare industry, change is avoided like the plague. Patients and doctors alike like consistency. However, when it comes down to the human life, improvements are paramount. In this industry, a change can have many unforeseen knock-on effects. For example, if a department of a hospital want to change the way they store patient information from paper to the cloud, it could lead to data protection issues. The NHS experienced this when they outsourced patient information. Moreover, if there is a change treatment, regulations, or guidelines, it will affect patient lives. Healthcare us PDCA on a small group of trial patients, a group of GP clinics, or even a hospital department to test their improvements systematically without disrupting patients or risking many lives. If the improvement actually makes things worse, then not many resources have been expended and the system can revert to what it was before. Furthermore, due to the evidence-based nature of healthcare, a systematic and repeatable approach such as PDCA is vital for improvements as the process can be recorded ad measured quantitatively. Like in a science experiment, the method should remain constant and one variable changes at a time in order for the final result to be meaningful and reliable. The NHS should introduce this method since they seem to be changing for the sake of change due to political or financial pressure rather than on an ad hoc basis.


PDCA diagram

1. Prep

Before starting the PDCA process, specific problems need to be identified and prioritised. The next step is to form a team of people who are best suited to the area of the problem. It is very important that achievable and measurable aims are set. These need to be time specific, so techniques such as time-boxing the PDCA should be used. Measures should also be established in order to track the progress of an improvement process and to compare solutions.


a) Plan

This is where the highlighted problem is picked apart. Teams should use root cause analysis techniques such as ‘5 Whys’, drill downs, and cause and effect diagrams. Teams should also gather additional information that could help to generate a solution. All information should be organised before moving to ‘Do’.

b) Do

‘Do’ actually means test or trial. In this phase, solutions should be generated and shortlisted. One way of scrutinizing possible solutions is to use the impact analysis technique. After selecting a solution, it should be piloted using few resources, on a small group or geographical error. This reduces the wastage of resources if the solution doesn’t work and reduces the number of resources and people at risk as well.

c) Check

In this phase, the team will check the improvement using the previously established measures to see how close they are to their aims. This is the beta testing of a game or a clinical audit in a GP practise. From the checking, further tweaks and improvements can be made to the solution to make the result closer to the decided aims. These improvements are trailed again and checked again. The ‘Do-Check’ iteration happens multiple times until the opportunity cost of doing the improvement outweighs the benefit of the improvement. Bare in mind, there are other improvements that need to be made and repeating the ‘Do-Check’ iterations comes at the cost of time.

d) Act

Act, or implement is when the team is satisfied with the quality of the improvement based on the measurable results in the pilot group and they are ready to upscale the improvement to the whole organisation. Teams should be aware that whole organisations are far more complex and chaotic than the limited scope of the pilot group.

3. Continuous improvement/ Kaizen

Once the improvement has been implemented fully, the team loops back to the beginning with another problem. When this is done continuously, it leads to systematic and continuous improvement of the organisation. The structured approach to improvement is its driving force.

When to use it?

PDCA should be used during continuous improvement or Kaizen projects. It is also effective when used to explore the efficacy of a range of new solutions by allowing controlled testing. This lets you compare reliable data from each solution so you can pick which one to upscale. The method is very effective at avoiding large-scale wastage of resources. Furthermore, data from a Do-Check iteration can be used to give stakeholders confidence in change that will take place in a company. However PDCA requires time and patience and shouldn’t be used for true emergency situations.

For more information about PDCA, its use and relation to Agile, and process improvement, take a look at our courses.





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Welcome to the culture of change


If you’re a manager, whether at middle or corporate level, you more than likely have the power to fire, hire, promote or demote people with very little effort indeed.  You may have the power to move your companies office space to the other side of the city, to change the logo, to make changes to your companies product. Some of these might appear to be stark changes on the surface, but do they really change the company? You can put lipstick on a pig, but its still a pig. You can make as many changes to the company as you want, but it won’t really actually change. After all, your company isn’t your product or your office space or your logo; its your employees. It’s the people. And they’re who you need to change.

No, I don’t mean fire everyone and hire a plethora of new people, I mean change the business culture your current employees have entrenched into them, and everything else will change too.

Professor John Kotter outlines how to go about this in his 1995 book ‘Leading change’. He outlines 8 steps for leading change in your organisation, and they are as follows:



For change to happen, it helps if the whole company really wants it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving.

This isn’t simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest and convincing dialogue about what’s happening in the marketplace and with your competition. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

What you can do:

  • Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
  • Examine opportunities that should be, or could be, exploited.
  • Start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking.
  • Request support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.


Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organization. Managing change isn’t enough – you have to lead it.

You can find effective change leaders throughout your organization – they don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and political importance.

Once formed, your “change coalition” needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

What you can do:

  • Identify the true leaders in your organization, as well as your key stakeholders.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people.
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.



When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can grasp easily and remember.

A clear vision can help everyone understand why you’re asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you’re trying to achieve, then the directives they’re given tend to make more sense.

What you can do:

  • Determine the values that are central to the change.
  • Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you “see” as the future of your organization.
  • Create a strategy to execute that vision.
  • Ensure that your change coalition can describe the vision in five minutes or less.
  • Practice your “vision speech” often.



What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the company, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.

Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they’ll remember it and respond to it.

It’s also important to “walk the talk.” What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others.

What you can do:

  • Talk often about your change vision.
  • Address peoples’ concerns and anxieties, openly and honestly.
  • Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews. Tie everything back to the vision.
  • Lead by example.



If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you’ve been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organization. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you’ve been promoting.

But is anyone resisting the change? And are there processes or structures that are getting in its way?

Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

What you can do:

  • Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
  • Look at your organizational structure, job descriptions, and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
  • Recognize and reward people for making change happen.
  • Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what’s needed.
  • Take action to quickly remove barriers (human or otherwise).



Nothing motivates more than success. Give your company a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have some “quick wins ” that your staff can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress.

Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each “win” that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

What you can do:

  • Look for sure-fire projects that you can implement without help from any strong critics of the change.
  • Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
  • Thoroughly analyze the potential pros and cons of your targets. If you don’t succeed with an early goal, it can hurt your entire change initiative.
  • Reward the people who help you meet the targets.



Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change.

Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements.

Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve.

What you can do:

  • After every win, analyze what went right, and what needs improving.
  • Set goals to continue building on the momentum you’ve achieved.
  • Learn about kaizen, the idea of continuous improvement.
  • Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition



Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organization. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work.

Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organization. This will help give that change a solid place in your organization’s culture.

It’s also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

What you can do:

  • Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
  • Include the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff.
  • Publicly recognize key members of your original change coalition, and make sure the rest of the staff – new and old – remembers their contributions.
  • Create plans to replace key leaders of change as they move on. This will help ensure that their legacy is not lost or forgotten.

Get in touch:
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