What makes you happy?

This is a blog about Agile Project Management, not about Mindfullness or other personal development themes. What makes you happy – within your project. It’s not just about software development where Agile is very common, but also about other projects, for example in accountancy. 

At Braindumplabs we close every sprint (period of development activity) with a ‘Retrospective’, a team meeting in which we express how we view our cooperation and the processes within the project. 

A project has a degree of risk and chance of failure. In a project, people work together towards a goal and results are delivered. The people who work together are the project team, the client, perhaps a steering committee, possibly external parties involved in the project and often a customer organization in software development. During the ‘retro’ [pronounce like reh-trow] the members of the project team evaluate the course of events. Often, very different problems come to light compared to a sprint evaluation in which mainly the result – the product – is looked at and where everyone can be present, also outside the team. 

It is important that everyone can express themselves freely about the process and the cooperation. That is why only the team is present, not the customer, the client or someone else. Everyone is equally important in this and the main goal is to learn from previous mistakes in the next sprint. 

Method 

Finally we can start using post-it’s! You use a board, usually a flipchart, but it can also be a (digital) whiteboard or a strip of ‘brown paper’ on the wall. On the board we make three columns: 
Glad, Sad, Mad. The team members then have the opportunity to write a message on post-it’s and paste it in the column of their choice. 

By at first thinking about what makes you happy, you realize that there is actually a lot to be proud of and to celebrate. Most projects are not evaluated at all during the project or even afterwards. And things will also have gone very well. So, contemplate on that first. 

 
There are also disappointments. In fact, what makes one person sad can make another person angry. And maybe someone is happy with it because he doesn’t realize how the cooperation is disturbed by certain actions. 
A team member is responsible for coordinating the retro. Who that is can vary. That person determines when the filling of the board is finished and then does the first analysis of the results. Often different team members write the same points. Because of the post-it’s you can stick them together and bundle the points. You also see immediately which points are most important. Perhaps a post-it raises questions because the message is unclear or multi-interpretable. The ringleader of the retro can then make inquiries and sometimes this amounts to additional post-it’s. 

 
Some frustrations are deep. Someone writes with a red pen or capital letters. Or there is a short, disagreeable communication (… never works, … always too late). This must be addressed. Does the team get the frustration? Does the writer exaggerate? Is this all a result of miscommunication? 

 
After the frustration has been expressed and everyone has been able to attract that personally, the ring leader summarizes the points. Even then it is good to emphasize at least one point from all three columns, also from the happy column. During the rest of the session the team talks about solutions for the points that make them sad or angry. 

 What makes you happy in your audit? 

Annual accounts audits or other project-based assignments are usually not executed in sprints. But there are intermediate evaluation moments possible. In a classic annual audit, this could be after the preparation, after the interim and after the balance sheet audit. The lessons from the retro can be applied in the remainder of the project or in the next financial year. 
The way of working with the post-it’s ensures that everyone is involved at the same level in the project, from the youngest assistant to the external auditor in the example of a financial statement audit. Everyone has the opportunity to give input without hierarchical obstacles. 

 
You will see that you get very valuable learning points from a retro. Sometimes it has to do with the quality of your work, but it can also be about the mutual relationships or the workload or responsibility of individual team members.  

And for a retro you do not need advanced technical tools. A few markers, a board and post-it’s is enough. One word of advice though: make sure that there is a good report for follow-up of the retro so that you are not discussing the same points over and over again. 

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