Using Retrospectives to Turn Disasters to Success
Today we had our retrospective. Both of us felt a bit disappointed that we did not resolve the issue assigned to us. We spent a lot of time reading Rails mailers documentation, which taught us a lot about how things work, in general, but not the specific information that we needed to resolve the the issue. We had a Slack session with our mentor that helped us immensely, but we had already spent a day and a half interpreting the documentation with very little to show for it. So we entered our retrospective a bit disappointed. But we were immediately put at ease by our moderator, Álvaro, a ThoughtWorker not officially affiliated with the project. He reminded us of the four parts of a retrospective: what went well, what can be improved, puzzles followed by a discussion to decide on action items. It would be these action items that would allow us to do better as we move forward. Following is a summary of a few of the issues raised and the action items that we have agreed upon.
What can be improved
In part because of the Rails Girls holiday, we had skipped our last retro/planning session after we finished our sprint. As a result, we started the week without having accurately sized the issue. In particular, we did not identify the concepts we needed to know in order to complete the task assigned to us. In other words, we improvised. This led to a lot of time spent studying a Ruby gem that we had identified as important, but not other gems which were equally important.
Action Item 1
Retrospectives and planning sessions are the key to our success. It is important to identify the knowledge we will need to complete a given task and schedule time with our coaches and/or mentors to get any training we need to remedy our shortcomings prior to the start of our sprint .
What can be improved
A second issue that emerged is that we have not figured out how to divide our time between working together and working independently. As Jeremy mentioned during our last meeting with him, collective knowledge is displayed during our pair coding sessions. While beneficial, it may obscure individual shortcomings. He encouraged us to work on Exercism exercises separately. It is true, individually we have different strengths and weaknesses and we need time to work on these.
At TW some teams schedule "pair time", the hours during the day they will work with others. This allows each team member to define their work activities outside of certain time as they see fit. For the next week we are going to dedicate 2 hours each day to working together. As with all things, this is an experiment. We may find that we need more time together (or less) so we will assess this arrangement at our next retrospective.
What can be improved
Related to the previous issue, we have been struggling with how to divide our time between study time and coding. Within this, we have not found a balance between studying for general knowledge acquisition (e.g., learning Ruby through Exercism exercises or ruby koans) and learning concepts need to apply to the issue we are trying to resolve (e.g., learning about a Ruby gem). As lifelong learners we know that studying can send you down a lot of rabbit holes. It is fun and we enjoy the process. At the same time, we have tasks to complete and we need to ensure that are passion for learning does not interfere with our responsibilities.
Action Item 3
Our coaches Emily and Maikha explained to us that during their planning session they identify what the need to become familiar with in order to complete a task. These "spikes" have to be considered when we are estimating our velocity. With our coaches we will identify our spikes during our planning session. Individually, we will decide when we schedule these into our work day.
Some thoughts on our host company
We are continuously impressed by the people of ThoughtWorks. We ask people who have no official role in the project for help and they give it selflessly. We are invited to events and made to feel at home. Everyone we come in contact with makes us feel like we are part of the ThoughtWorks family. Take for example, Álvaro. He enthusiastically agreed to act as our moderator, and he also took the initiative to look at the common TW calendar to schedule a time. After, he thanked us for asking him. There is something really special about this place.
Not project related, but very important
- After her first drone flying lesson with Donald, another cool ThoughtWorker, Lori is an official member of the unofficial ThoughWorkers Drone club.
You must be logged in to add a comment.