Recurring opinions or productive improvements—what agile teams actually discuss in retrospectives

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Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
A1 Alkuperäisartikkeli tieteellisessä aikakauslehdessä
Date
2017-10
Major/Subject
Mcode
Degree programme
Language
en
Pages
44
1-44
Series
EMPIRICAL SOFTWARE ENGINEERING
Abstract
Team-level retrospectives are widely used in agile and lean software development, yet little is known about what is actually discussed during retrospectives or their outcomes. In this paper, we synthesise the outcomes of sprint retrospectives in a large, distributed, agile software development organisation. This longitudinal case study analyses data from 37 team-level retrospectives for almost 3 years. We report the outcomes of the retrospectives, their perceived importance for process improvement and relatVed action proposals. Most discussions were related to topics close to and controllable by the team. However, the discussions might suffer from participant bias, and in cases where they are not supported by hard evidence, they might not reflect reality, but rather the sometimes strong opinions of the participants. Some discussions were related to topics that could not be resolved at the team level due to their complexity. Certain topics recurred over a long period of time, either reflecting issues that can and have been solved previously, but that recur naturally as development proceeds, or reflecting waste since they cannot be resolved or improved on by the team due to a lack of controllability or their complexity. For example, the discussion on estimation accuracy did not reflect the true situation and improving the estimates was complicated. On the other hand, discussions on the high number of known bugs recurred despite effective improvements as development proceeded.
Description
Keywords
Agile, Continuous improvement, Longitudinal case study, Retrospective, Scrum, Software engineering
Other note
Citation
Lehtinen , T O A , Itkonen , J & Lassenius , C 2017 , ' Recurring opinions or productive improvements—what agile teams actually discuss in retrospectives ' , Empirical Software Engineering , vol. 22 , no. 5 , pp. 2409–2452 . https://doi.org/10.1007/s10664-016-9464-2