I discovered recently that some team members had never heard of the retrospective prime directive or it’s essential concept of ‘no blame’. To me and the facilitators of our retros the idea was implicit, and never stated so I introduced the concept at the next retrospective.
While doing that, I found myself apologising for the wording of the prime directive, which I found slightly patronising.
Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
It turns out I’m not alone in having a problem with the current wording. There’s plenty of discussion and some alternatives here and here but I didn’t find any alternatives the really hit the spot for me.
For me the essential driver in this is that we should be able to talk about anything in the retrospective, but that idea could lead directly worries about a blame-fest. So here’s the wording I came up with.
We should be able to talk about anything that happened, even the bad stuff, in a blame-free environment.
We shouldn’t get blamed as a result.
We shouldn’t need to blame anyone. Anything that we saw happening that we didn’t like, happened because somebody had good reasons to do something, that seemed right at the time, given the context.
I’m sure that could be tweaked some more, but that’s what we’re using for now.