Water lilies

Retrospective – the Water lilies Principle

If you improve 1% a day, then in 100 days, guess what? You’re 100% better.

Ken Carter

Well this is barely true: 1.01100 = 2.7

Then imagine improving 1% a day during 1 year: 1.01365 = 37.78 🚀

1% increase

Agile methods could be reduced to few words: continuous improvement.

Interesting but how to do when you are undergoing the tunnel effect ? And you no more see what should/could be improved ?

If you follow the Agile Method and already had a look at Scrum. You might have encountered the Retrospective concept. A very relevant concept. But most of the time it is badly implemented. It leads team members to remain mute and not bringing up their vision of the battlefield. And sometimes ending in a toxic gladiator arena 💥.

A “simple” Retrospective implementation

Phase 1: Harvest

Do this individually with each of your team members. Foresee 30min for each person.

Begin by listing the Good and the Bad.

Nothing new here. Except that you must find a way to extract your team member vision: one after another list an item.

the Good and the Bad

Hint: Begin yourself with something bad. It usually helps breaking the ice.

Hint²: Ask them to prepare this meeting in advance.

Extend by listing things To Repeat and things To Not Repeat. This part is meant to highlight good and bad habits.

the To Repeat and the To Not Repeat

Most of the time these are seen as not important. Consequently too many times these are never repeated/prevented and forgotten.

Hint: You don’t have to do 1st “Good”/”Bad” then “To Repeat“/“To Not Repeat“. Alternate the order since it favors brain-storming 🧠.

Wish list

Bonus: you can introduce a Wish list part. It aims to list all little things which could improve your team member's every day life. From a productivity point of view to a well being point of view. This is a key part to see what could motivate your team.

Examples: A faster router / More team building in bars / Paying for meditation app.

Bonus²: you can introduce an And if .. part. A lot of time we restrain the way we think because of constraints. This reduces the brain-storming outcome.

And if

Example: "Our legacy database is full of typo anyways. We won’t be able to expose it as a SaaS. Despite the demand."
What if: We managed to clean our database typo ? What technical/business perspective would it open ?
Often a constraint detected 2 years ago, might no more be as problematic with the technology you have today.


Bonus3: you can introduce an Impact part. Its goal is to bring up your teammate ideas about how to create technical or business impact in your project. It can lead to good surprises. Some of them can be very lucrative 💰.

Phase II: Actionable points

Still in the same session for each items, link it to an actionable point(s). This is were most retrospective implementation fail. Basically not creating outcome. And it ends up being just a whining time not really serving the continuous improvement purpose. This leads participants to keep a bitter taste of having lost their time.

In order to maximize outcome: assign actionable points to every participants. And let them take initiatives to solve the problem: trust your team.

Phase III: Team

You can create a summary and show it to your team. If you want to avoid a bloody mess 🩸, you can remove the drama items. This depends on your team.

Phase IV: Truth time

One or two month later begin the 1st phase by showing the former retrospective making sure all actionable points were triggered by each responsible.

Phase V: Repeat

Here is the Miro template:Keep improving 🚀

Why the water lilies ?
Exponential Growth Lily Pond
Credit: http://www.artefacts.us/wordpress/works/exponential-growth-lily-pond

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