Rediscovering the Obvious

…stumbling in the footsteps of greatness

Retrospective Prime Directive

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Anybody who’s worked with agile teams for a while has likely come across the prime directive in one form or another. The copy I use in retrospectives is below [1]:

Regardless of what we discover,
we understand and truly believe
that everyone did the best job they could,
given what they knew at the time,
their skills and abilities,
the resources available,
and the situation at hand.

At the end of a project everyone knows so much more.
Naturally we will discover decisions and actions
we wish we could do over.
This is wisdom to be celebrated,
not judgment used to embarrass.

Here’s the thing: I was building a deck to support a more “formal” retrospective and realized that I had internalized the directive in a very different form than it was actually written and it took some friendly advice from Liz to find it because I was looking in the entirely wrong place. Somehow I came to the belief that it was actually the “Facilitator’s Manifesto” and that it was written entirely in the present tense. Talking about the idea and my perspective further, I thought I’d go ahead and write up my version for the community. Here’s what I think and believe, and what I informally tended to coach and share in many team contexts:

Regardless of what is done,
we understand and truly believe
that everyone does the best job they can,
given what they know,
their skills and abilities,
the resources available,
and the situation at hand.

Throughout a project everyone learns so much more.
Naturally we will discover decisions and actions
we wish we could do over.
This is wisdom to be celebrated,
not judgment used to embarrass.

The differences are fairly subtle and the sentiment is largely similar, but the differences in practice are large [2]. The retrospective directive creates a zone of safety around the moment of the retrospective itself. The present tense makes this a creed to be respected and valued continually throughout a project. Directing attention to the statement on a regular basis has a value that can spill beyond the immediate team to infect an organization with respect for people.

 

[1] I owe somebody a reference for this one, I’m not sure how it got into my slide deck without a reference. If it’s yours, comment and I’ll put it in my decks. If not, I’ll find it when I’m not on a plane and have a few minutes :)

[2] I have no doubt that the majority of good agile teams (and good people, regardless of environment) create a safe environment and respect these perspectives all the time. Addressing the disjoint language is important to me.

Written by erwilleke

February 7th, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'Retrospective Prime Directive'

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  1. Beautifully said, Eric. I would hedge that this for the most part is what people try for in their life decisions, work-related or not.

    Natalie Warnert

    10 Aug 15 at 11:12 am

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