The other day we tried a different format for our iteration retrospective. The iteration was a tough one and I saw some old problems recurring. So I thought we’d try some root cause analysis to get past the symptoms to see if we could identify what was really causing the problems.
Prime Directive - A team member read it aloud and then, in turn, I asked ask each person to say whether they could agree to it.
Good and Bad (5 min) - This is a simplification on the brainstorming technique Mad, Sad and Glad. The team split into small groups. Each group was asked to think back over the iteration and brainstorm the events that were either good or bad. Good events were written on green post-it notes and bad events on pink post-it notes. It helped the groups to categorize the related notes.
Patterns and Shifts (5 min) - In this activity the groups looked for connections between the events to see if any patterns existed. Each group was asked to identify the most important pattern to analyze.
5 Whys (30 min) - The groups used the 5 Whys technique to reveal the root cause for their selected pattern or event. This generated some interesting discussion.
Each group presented the root cause they identified to the rest of the team.
What Can You Do About It - The groups reconvened to discuss and agree on an action they could take into the next iteration to address the root cause they had identified. Ideally this was captured as a user story. The user stories were presented to the rest of the team to solicit a team-wide commitment to the actions.