Closing the Loop: Retrospectives in Kanban

I’ve been meaning to write for some time about the way we handle the feedback loop normally known as ‘retrospective’, and I’ve finally been spurred into action by a similarly themed blog post. Here’s how we do it.

At our daily ’standup’ one of the steps (after we’ve reviewed the Kanban board) is that I ask if we’ve got any ‘wishlist’ items. This is the shorthand we’ve adopted for anything we wish would happen to make things better or anything that regularly gives us pain that needs to be addressed. Anything we come up with goes on the ‘wishlist’ which in our case is an AgileZen board with columns for each team member.

Also, if anything arises during normal work that’s an issue that can’t be resolved without deep discussion, that too goes on the wishlist.

Each team member looks after their own wishlist column and keeps the most important stuff at the top.

Then once a week at our regular team meeting we review the top items from each list. We have a small team so there’s no defined process for item selection. Sometimes I pick one that looks important to me, often I ask the team (since we’re all looking at the same board) what’s the next most important item. The ‘product owner’ is part of this meeting, and as a result if we come up with an item that needs a fair amount of work, he can decide if it’s something that goes straight onto our Kanban board, or whether it’s an item that is put back to the product backlog to compete for priority with other work items.

We address ‘wishlist’ items in under a week typically, and if items do get passed over in the team meeting, that’s fine, there was obviously more important stuff to be done. We don’t use the wishlist for true impediments or blockages, those are treated in a stop-the-line fashion, either fix on the spot or at the very least, escalate to the product owner during the daily standup. And any issues that come up during the week that we can resolve within the team with a few minutes chat or perhaps up to an hours action obviously don’t make it to the wishlist board either.

This is working fine for us in our context, closing the loop in a week usually. I hope that gives a few ideas if your own ‘retrospective’ process isn’t working so well.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 25th, 2010 at 12:17 am and is filed under Coding. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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