The Retrospective Handbook
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The Retrospective Handbook

A guide for agile teams

About the Book

Are you running retrospectives regularly? Perhaps you run retrospectives once a week, or fortnightly. Do you feel like you could be getting more out of your retrospectives and fuelling continuous improvement in your teams? You may already find retrospectives valuable, but suspect there are ways of making them better.

This book condenses down over eight years of experience working with the retrospective practice within the context of real agile teams. It offers you practical advice on how to make your retrospectives even more effective including topics such as:

  • Best methods to prepare for a retrospective
  • Picking just the right materials
  • Facilitating retrospectives with ease
  • Dealing with common retrospective smells
  • Retrospectives in different contexts including distributed, large and small groups
  • A checklist for preparation
  • Ensuring retrospectives result in change

Read the Foreword (available in the preview) by Agile Retrospectives's author, Diana Larsen to see why this book is for you.

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About the Author

Patrick Kua
Patrick Kua

Patrick Kua is the CTO of the mobile bank N26 (Berlin, Germany), where he is building the engineering group that will change modern retail banking for people like you and me. Formerly a Principal Technical Consultant at ThoughtWorks, he is the author of three books, The Retrospective Handbook, Talking with Tech Leads and most recently, Building Evolutionary Architectures. Patrick is a frequent conference speaker, blogger and is passionate about bringing a balanced focus between people, organisations and technology. You can find me blogging at or on twitter @patkua

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Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Diana Larsen
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • 1 Retrospective Fundamentals
  • 1.1 A Short History of Retrospectives
  • 1.2 The Key Questions
  • 1.3 A Simple Framework
  • 1.4 Where to Find Activities
  • 1.5 The Importance of the Prime Directive
  • 1.6 The Right Context for Retrospectives
  • 1.7 Complementary Improvement Practices
  • 2 Preparing for Retrospectives
  • 2.1 Set Aside Time to Prepare
  • 2.2 Find an Appropriate Space
  • 2.3 Choose the Right Materials
  • 2.4 Prepare the Space
  • 2.5 Right People, Right Place, Right Time
  • 2.6 A Preparation Checklist
  • 3 Facilitating Retrospectives
  • 3.1 Independent or Non-Independent
  • 3.2 Conflict of Interest
  • 3.3 Be Decisive
  • 3.4 Develop Your Facilitation Skills
  • 3.5 Form Effective Actions
  • 3.6 Spread the Retrospective Word
  • 4 First-Time Facilitation Tips
  • 4.1 Encourage Physical Presence
  • 4.2 Seek Equal Participation
  • 4.3 Avoid Doing All the Work Yourself
  • 4.4 Confirm Your Understanding
  • 4.5 Rephrase Blaming Statements
  • 4.6 Keep the Focus on the Current Phase
  • 4.7 Use a Visual Agenda
  • 4.8 Use a Wide Variety of Questions
  • 4.9 Observe Body Language
  • 4.10 Observe Yourself
  • 5 Distributed Retrospectives
  • 5.1 Distributed Challenges
  • 5.2 Make the Most of It
  • 5.3 Focus First on Building Relationships
  • 5.4 Use Video Cameras at All Ends
  • 5.5 People Tokens in Remote Locations
  • 5.6 Prevent Remote People ‘Going Dark’
  • 5.7 Faces for Everyone
  • 5.8 Use Remote Facilitators
  • 5.9 Collect Input Before the Meeting
  • 5.10 Use Online Tools to Share
  • 5.11 Agree on a Signalling System
  • 5.12 Invest in a ‘Technographer’
  • 5.13 Run Remote Working Groups
  • 5.14 Remote Proxies as Representatives
  • 5.15 Simple Tips for Remote Communication
  • 5.16 Be Aware of Cultural Dimensions
  • 5.17 Distributed Retrospectives Are Always Harder
  • 6 Other Flavours of Retrospectives
  • 6.1 Futurespectives
  • 6.2 Continuous Retrospectives
  • 6.3 Very Big Retrospectives
  • 6.4 Very Small Retrospectives
  • 6.5 Appreciative Inquiry Retrospectives
  • 6.6 Solution-Focused Goal-Driven Retrospectives
  • 6.7 Dialogue Sheet Retrospectives
  • 7 After the Retrospective
  • 7.1 Capture the Retrospective Output
  • 7.2 Make Actions Visible
  • 7.3 Check Actions During Stand-Ups
  • 7.4 Actively Chase Action Owners
  • 7.5 Schedule Follow-Up Sessions
  • 7.6 Schedule the Next Retrospective
  • 7.7 Share With Other Teams
  • 8 Common Retrospective Smells
  • 8.1 All Talk, No Action
  • 8.2 All Action, No Talk
  • 8.3 Conversation Too Controlled
  • 8.4 Too Repetitive
  • 8.5 No Preparation
  • 8.6 Too Many Goals
  • 8.7 Poorly Formed Actions
  • 8.8 One Person Owns All Actions
  • 9 Keeping Retrospectives Fresh
  • 9.1 Bring Food
  • 9.2 Ask Different Questions
  • 9.3 Run an Energiser
  • 9.4 Vary the Activities
  • 9.5 Change the Environment
  • 9.6 Appeal To Other Skillsets
  • 9.7 Make It Less Formal
  • 10 Concluding
  • 10.1 Powerful Results
  • 10.2 Constant Change
  • Appendix A: Retrospective Activities
  • Books
  • Websites
  • Appendix B: Resources to Becoming a Better Facilitator
  • Facilitation Resources
  • Resources on Related Topics
  • Appendix C: References

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