A remote retrospective

It’s been a while since I last facilitated an all remote retrospective. Below is an email I sent out to the team I’m currently working with to help us prepare for our first “retro” together. We’ve since held the retro and it went well overall, so I thought this prep and guidance might be useful for others to iterate on.

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Hi All,

On Tuesday we’re going to have a Project Retrospective (aka “retro”). In my experience, retros are hugely beneficial opportunities for teams to learn and grow.

Please take the time to read the rest of this email. It outlines how the retro will run. In order to make the most of our time, it’s best to come prepared. :-)

Retro Goals

  • Learning jointly – From each other’s different perspectives, feelings, and current thoughts about where the team is at since launching the project.
  • Taking action Based on learning together, we identify where we can most benefit from improvement and take action.
  • Strengthening the team – We’re in this together. By listening, learning, and taking action on what we’ve learned, we develop a stronger bond that is bigger than “just the work”.

Ground Rules

Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he or she could, given what was known at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.

  1. Be respectful
  2. Be present (no phones, no “side chats/conversations”, no browsing, etc.)
  3. Everyone gets a turn to speak
  4. No interrupting
  5. No judgement on feedback (use “I statements“)

Before The Retro (between now and when we meet)

Please take time between now and when we meet to think about the following in relation to your experience and/or what you observed during your time with the TGE project:

  • What you want us to continue doing
  • What you’d like us to start doing
  • What you’d like us to stop doing

You can add your items to this doc, which we’ll use as part of the retro: Google Doc

The Start

Check-in: We’ll go around the call and have everyone provide one word for how they’re feeling in the moment. Have trouble coming up with a word for how you’re feeling? I know I do sometimes! Try this to help identify a word: https://verbaliststravel.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/the-language-and-vocabulary-wheel-for-feelings-verbalists.jpg

The Middle

Part 1) We’ll use the “Before the Retro” section above to guide the initial discussion. What we want to: continue, start, and stop doing. If you haven’t added your items to each area, we’ll have a short time for everyone to add to each list.

Part 2) We’ll go through each item and open it up for questions/clarification. I will do my best to encourage open, focused discussion that honors our time.

Part 3) Everyone gets 3 votes per area to put against the items they think we should take action on now, not later. You can apply more than 1 vote to an item if you feel that strongly about it.

Part 4) Identify the top item in each area and determine next steps (which can be as simple as identifying an owner to drive the action post-retro). …But what about the other items – aren’t they important too? Yes! But focus is key. Just because an item isn’t made “top priority” doesn’t mean it won’t see progress in the future.

I’m accountable for ensuring the 3 items we identified to take action on make progress. Don’t expect miracles. Some things require a a fair amount of determination over a period of time to show results. My commitment is to continue to provide visibility to the items and help move them forward. Expect this to be part of our weekly meetings, even if it’s just a quick update.

The End

Check-out: Everyone on the call gets a brief (30 seconds or less) opportunity to express closing thoughts/feelings now that the retro is at a close.

Looking forward to learning and improving with you all!

Josh

An example of delighting customers

Netflix is amazingly good in a lot of ways. Add this one to the list:

Netflix email screenshot

Netflix could have sent me Back to The Future and made me wait 3 to 5 days for it to arrive, but instead they sent an additional disc from my queue to make up for the shipping delay. They didn’t have to do this and I wouldn’t have complained. But they did and I think it’s a nice touch that deserves recognition.

Agile and Estimates and Contracts! Oh My!

Over the last six months, I’ve been mulling over one of those subjects that has often been a stumbling block for IT providers considering adoption of agile for their customers’ software development projects. The dilemma revolves around contracts and estimating projects. The two tend to go together. Once you have one figured out it seems you’re left with even more questions with the one remaining. I have some ideas on how to make agile contracts and estimating better based on what I’ve learned and observed over the years.

WARNING: This is a long post. I try not to write long posts. I think this one is worth it, mainly because it’s building off the ideas of those much smarter than me. Continue reading “Agile and Estimates and Contracts! Oh My!”

Be Great or Quit Now

I spent the day today with my fellow Gestalt Scrum Masters meeting about what we want to accomplish as a team within the company. It was a productive meeting overall. There were quite a few good discussions that have led to some meaningful action items. I’m looking forward to the weeks ahead.

The Dip on Amazon.comWhen discussing our vision for the Scrum Master team within Gestalt I went on a (slight) rant. I couldn’t help it. I read Seth Godin’s book, The Dip, while on the plane last night and one idea hasn’t left me: Be great, don’t settle for anything less. Don’t waste your professional life in pursuit of anything less than greatness. You can be mediocre anywhere, anytime. Quit when you’re headed for a dead-end. Quit when you’re headed for a cliff. Only pursue those opportunities that provide the opportunity for greatness.

Greatness at Gestalt is no small feat. We’re providing software and consulting services to the Department of Defense. The DOD can no longer afford the status quo of paying big bucks to big companies that take many years to deliver mounds of paper and little of value. The DOD’s “competition” these days doesn’t thrive on big budgets, big monolithic organizations or deadlines in the far off future. The DOD’s “competition” thrives on constraints, is massively distributed and constantly seeking payoffs sooner rather than later. Greatness at Gestalt is delivering the right technology solutions quickly and in an open, non-proprietary manner so that the DOD can succeed in an ever changing environment.

Number One ButtonScrum Master’s play a big role in helping Gestalt as a whole reach greatness. It’s not because we are more important or talented than anyone else within the company. The role we play within Gestalt is one of leadership on a variety of levels; serving as change agents that touch many different areas within the company. We are only a piece to the puzzle called greatness, but if we don’t do our jobs well then there are many others that suffer as a result and the puzzle is incomplete. Not being great as Scrum Masters at Gestalt is not an option. As Seth Godin says on page 57 of The Dip: If you’re not going to get to #1, you might as well quit now.

Attack of The Resume

Is your resume really long? Is it chock full of never ending prose? Does it cover every job you’ve held since about the age of ten? Does your resume lose YOUR attention three sentences in? Take heart, you’re not alone.

I’ve noticed a trend in tech resumes over the years. They tend to be extremely long, boring and short on anything I would consider informative. Earlier this year I swear I had a twenty pager in front of me. I wouldn’t mind it so much if people wrote overly long resumes that read like a decent novel, but most of them are bordering on nonsensical due to poor grammar and horrendous formatting. My designer friends would cry if they saw the abuse of typography committed by some of the resumes I’ve had to review over the years.

Enough criticism, now onto what I’d like to see in a resume. I really want to know what you’ve accomplished in the past. Accomplished, that’s the key word there. I don’t care about what you did day-to-day at your job. It’s nice to know that you did everything from re-engineer the next Pet Store app to water the company’s plants, but we can talk about that later. I care about answers to questions like: What have you done that has made a positive difference? What were you able to make happen that delivered value to your customers? If you can communicate that on your resume, then you have just put yourself in the top 20% – easy.

A Bastion of Customer Service: Home Depot

Looks like Seth Godin has noticed the same stellar service at Home Depot that I have of late. Mind you, I’m not hanging out at Home Depot much, but the last few visits have been filled with frustration. Aisles are a mess, shelves are even worse, and the checkout clerks take “it’s not my problem” to a whole new level.

The best is when my Dad and I were ready to pay for a few items at the local Home Depot here in Joplin, MO. I suggested we go through the self-checkout. My last experience at this Home Depot told me that the counter intuitive self-checkout machines were a safer bet. My Dad spotted a clerk with an open lane so it was too late. He approached the register and asked the clerk how he was doing. The guy replied with, “I’m pretty pissed off right now,” raises his voice, “See that girl right over there at that register? She’s telling me what to do. She’s only worked here one week and she thinks she knows everything.” Uh-huh, OK. Thanks for sharing buddy.

Sigh.