Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Thinking About Code

Last night I dragged my colleague Simon to the monthly LSCC Round Table and we had some interesting conversations around the topic: "how to balance time between discussing code and actually coding". The session was enlightening and we ended the night with a lot of food for thought (to supplement all the pizza and soft drinks provided by our wonderful hosts xD).

The original premise for the discussion came from a feeling within our team that we were doing retrospectives too often. Assuming that nothing "bad" has happened lately, was it necessary to hold a retrospective? Would forcing a retrospective simply push people to artificially discuss arbitrary topics for the simple sake of it?

We need more data to make a proper judgement but it is clear that there is more we can do to benefit from our retrospectives. One of the obstacles in our way could be a misperceived purpose of a retrospective: a process through which to fix problems. Whilst this is an aspect of retrospectives, if we look at how others do retrospectives it quickly become apparent that the focus is primarily on gathering feedback. Even when things are going well, there is bound to be something that could be improved, nobody is perfect after all!

Contrary to this, changing simply for the sake of change can be a waste of time. Identifying the right areas/processes to change is hard. In our case it very much feels like we need to prepare better for our retrospectives and do more to facilitate the discussions inside them. There is a wealth of material out there on retrospective facilitation but Tom's blog post on the 7 pillars of agile and spiderweb retrospective caught my eye.

As mentioned, it is very early days for our team as we only had two retrospectives since we changed the format and it would be premature to apply any changes as a knee jerk reaction. Going back to the very core of the issue, we have to ensure everyone understands the purpose of the retrospective. Once everyone has the same mindset, we can start evolving the process from there :)

Credit to from which I got the typing monkey image :)