Improvement Path Redux

All retrospectives, all the time. At least in this post.

Keith Ray posts this snippet about self-directed improvement paths on his blog. (See previous post on Keith’s Project Management tip on Reforming Project Management.)

Retrospectives are an excellent vehicle to help teams start on sefl-directed improvement. In a (well run) retrospective, the team looks at what changes are most important to them and designs interventions that fit where they are and where they want to go.

HBS Working Knowledge posts an article How Your Company Can Learn From Mistakes by Stever Robbins.

I found the questions Stever suggests interesting, and will file them away for future adaptation:

For each “bad” action, ask the team:

What choices could we have made to avoid the bad action?

What choices did we make that should have been avoided?

What misinterpretations of events, motivations, and actions did we make that led to the bad action?

What were the correct interpretations?

What do all these imply about what we should and shouldn’t do going forward?

For each “good” action, ask:

What did we do to cause this?

Is there anything we refrained from doing that allowed this to happen?

Did our interpretation of events, motivations, and actions help this action come to pass?

What do all these imply about what we should do and shouldn’t do going forward?

I have a different take on bringing in emotions and emotional issues. When we leave those out, were missing vital information. I almost always do a “seismograph” in retrospectives for projects longer than a few weeks (OTOH, I sometimes do seismographs for projects that last only a day). The seismograph shows how people responded to events….and provides clues on where the real juice is for a particular project community.

The Industrial XP list has been talking about the “Prime Directive” for the last couple of days.

The Prime Directive (from Norm Kerth’s book, Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews) says:

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

I try to stand in this space as a matter of personal values. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always my first reaction. I believe that most people want to do a good job. Sometimes people don’t know what to do or how to do it. I find it helps me to a more generous interpretation of others’ actions.

And I stand in this space for purely pragmatic reasons: It’s very hard for me to influence someone — or learn from that person’s experiences and perspective — when I’ve flipped the bozo bit on them.

Within the context of a retrospective, the Prime Directive helps people stay out of the blame-fest — a necessary condition for learning.

Finally, I’m off to the International Association of Facilitators Conference in Ottawa for the next few days. I’ll leading a session on …. Project Retrospectives.

Back on Monday.