Tips for Understanding Retrospective Data

Tips for Understanding Retrospective Data

A while back I was attending a Docker conference where the Jenkins creator aptly reminded everyone in the crowd to make decisions with data.

Data is Boss

A while back I was attending a Docker conference where the Jenkins creator aptly reminded everyone in the crowd to make decisions with data. Of course, this resonated with the house, at least, I assume it did. It seems like one of those obvious truths we all nod our heads and tip our hats too. And yet, it needs to be said because we so rarely invest the time it takes to really collect the right data and thoughtfully process it.

Also, there is a sense in which this is easier in the DevOps world. You can measure test coverage, duplicate code, time-to-deploy, and host of other things to tell you something of the overall health or maturity of a project. It takes time, yes, but the answers are just a google search and a weekend away. Oh, and lots of money.

Collecting and making decisions in the agile world is quite a bit trickier thanks to the complexity of the machine we’re measuring: humans.

So how should we process and interpret the data that falls out of retrospectives?

100% of What?

Ok, storytime. 🍿

I must have missed my 3rd cup of coffee because I was particularly feisty one morning as my team walked into sprint planning. I glanced across the room to our scrum master who was grinning from ear to ear like he had the emotions of a 12-year-old and had just been pecked on the cheek by his crush. I started to itch my neck nervously.

“Guys, I just want to say that you guys did really great this sprint.” He paused for dramatic effect. “I think this is the first time this team has made an achievement like this,” as he ended his sentence, he made a few dramatized Tony Stark like movements on his keyboard and the projector flashed on. On the display was a burn-down chart with some colors and numbers. The largest number read “100%”. I supposed scrum masters are supposed to crush on their crunched numbers.

“You completed everything in the sprint!” he exclaimed and he started the proud father clap. Although hesitantly, everyone joined him in applause. He then attempted to launch into the retrospective portion of the meeting eager to know how we could maintain this kind of success. However, that missing 3rd cup of coffee kicked in and I cut him off, saying “That number doesn’t mean anything”.

He gave me that look many have given me before. Of course, Dan, you have an issue, don’t you, was clearly written on his now lowered brow.

software-development agile retrospectives software-engineering coding visual studio code

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