Tag: retrospective

 

Posted on by Steven Savage

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

And here we are, the last Agile principle. Appropriately, it’s about review

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

It’s another piece of simplicity – the team regularly reviews on how to become more effective then adjusts. It’s one of those things that should have gone without saying, which is why a bunch of people had to say it.

This is one that doesn’t have to be changed or altered for creative teams. But let’s take a look at what it means for creatives by breaking it down.

At regular intervals . . .

Reviewing is done at regular intervals – happening every x days or y weeks, or z months. Not “whenever” or “when we have time.” Reguarly.  This is important.

First, this regularity means that the review is guaranteed – you know it’s coming and when so you can prepare for it. If you’ve got a hectic or unpredictable schedule, this provides an anchor so you’re ready.

Secondly, this regular review means you hold it no matter what. There’s no saying “we didn’t learn anything” or ‘we can’t improve.” It’s a great way to break people’s habits and challenge any assumptions there’s “nothing to learn.” – and can get things out into the open and stimulate conversation. In creative works this is vital, since the unpredictable nature of the work may mean lessons are not immediately obvious – besides we know creative folks can build who ideas that they know something and be wrong (I’ve certainly done that).

Third, it gets people into an improvement mindset. In my experience the more you do these reviews, the more you learn, but also the more people improve outside of the reviews. Self-review and self-improvement is a skillset, and doing this develops it. There’s nothing like turning an imaginative team loose on self-improvement.

Fourth, it encourages applying lessons that can be used. In creative works, projects may differ wildly, so a regular review will in general lead to developing improvements that apply well into the future. Yes, short temporary changes may come up and be made, but in time you’ll improve longer and longer term as repeating issues come up and new insights get put into long-term practice.

Fifth, people don’t have to worry about missing opportunities or remembering everything they want to improve. Their work, especially creative works, may be seen differently in retrospect or with a marketing change. A person may have a hundred ideas but only remember five. Regular reviews mean you’ll be able to get back to forgotten ideas later or incorporate new views of old work. You can relax – you’re less likely to miss something.

. . . the team reflects on how to become more effective . . .

There’s two parts to this section.

The Team

The team is who does these regular reviews so they can improve – not just as individuals but a team. Now we have to ask who is the team?

To me the team is usually the folks doing the work – in the case of creatives those doing said work and their support team. But does that include consultants? The client? Beta testers? The legal team?   Asking this question is probably going to lead to unexpected and important answers:

By the way, no I can’t give you an obvious answer. But I can say in creative teams that it gets a bit hairy because that’s a place “things come together.” So your “team” may not just be people doing what you think is the work, but:

  • The legal team reviewing copyrights.
  • Proofreaders for documents who provide “testing.”
  • Marketers testing your ideas.
  • Support teams who provide software, hardware, maintenance on things like cameras, etc.
  • Administrative teams scheduling events.

Ask who the team is. The answer may surprise you.

Being More Effective:

Reflecting on being more effective sounds great, but there’s  an issue.  What does it mean for your team to be “more effective.”

It’s not an obvious question, which is why the importance is in how we answer it! How do you measure effectiveness so you know you’re getting better.

I often solve this by asking the team how they want to measure effectiveness and then going around until we have an agreement and a way to do it. For many it’s a simple general gut check of “did we get the work done and signed off on” but you may find a few additional factors come in. You may also find that it changes over time.

The best way, of course, is to focus on Value – did you deliver what people valued. But the way there, that may take some consideration, analysis, and arguments.

In creative teams, where metrics may be hard to come by and subjectivity is an issue, this question is very important. It may help to ask now and then just what effectiveness is and how you measure it.

. . . then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

Ah, yes the end goal of these regular reviews with the team – you review how you did and then figure how to tune and adjust what you do accordingly. In short, you decide how to improve your behavior, approach, actions, tools, and methods. you hold these reviews and then create *takeaways.*

I can’t emphasize this enough. Make sure that these reviews lead to concrete goals for the team that you can measure, and tasks for the team or individuals so you can say “it’s done.” I’ve seen people who do reviews insist everything be something that can be tracked as simple as a piece of work – and I have to say it’s effective.

Make sure your team comes up with concrete suggestions that you can move on. In fact, when I do this I review them reguarly, often during other meetings and definitely at the start of the next review.

This is needed in creative works because of the many variables, obvious, but also for another reason. Creative works, with their infinite options, also provide us many ways to improve. Having solid choices is a nice way to narrow things down to workable selections.

Having definite choices also keeps people from overloading themselves. After all, you can’t improve if all you’re doing for a few weeks is doing things better – so you have no time to DO the things you want to do better.

A final important note – improvements for individuals should be called out by the individuals themselves. The team’s goals are to improve as a team, and blame-slinging (even if true) is pretty disruptive at these meetings. I found a way to make this easier is to see if people have any personal improvement goals they want to call out to encourage personal improvement – but note the team has to support these people.

Note: If your team has too many improvements to make, have them force-rank them in order and pick what they think they can do in the next time period. That helps them prioritize (and deprioritize) and focus.

Do I Do This As A Solo Creative?

Yes.  You should do your own reviews even if it’s just you.  Even if you don’t review with a client.  Even if it’s just personal work. Sit down and go over what you did, how you’re doing and how to improve.

Remember, never assume there’s no way to get better . . .  even if you’re awesome on your own.

Roundup At The End

So there it is, the Twelfth Agile principle – go and review sutff regularly with the right people and make concrete improvements.

I find these reviews are almost comforting in any practice. In creative practices you’ll always be focused on going forwards, on lessons learned, on getting better. it adds a structure where needed – while also breaking you out of any assumptions or mental straightjackets.

Besides, creative people asked to “make something better” can often take off when given a chance . . .

A few quick roundups:

  • A regular review puts people into an improvement mindset, reduces the chance and fear of missing opportunities, and makes it predictable.
  • The team should be involved – but you have to ask who “the team” really is.
  • Reviews should focus on being effective, but you need to determine how “effective” is defined.
  • Concrete goals should be the end result of the review so you can move forward.

And that’s it folks!  The Twelve Agile Principles for creatives.  Now you’ll be pleased to know this isn’t the end – I’m using this as raw material for a book. So in a few months get ready for something even more awesome . . . and probably better edited.

– Steve

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