Ive been looking forward to Norm Kerths book since
I first learned he was writing it. I need it for my consulting practice. My clients
need it for their process improvement programs. The software industry needs it
in order to become truly professional. And nobody in the world knows more about
project retrospectives than Norm.
To me, retrospectives are primarily about
learning. Without information about past performance, there can be no learning.
Though this essential role of feedback is a basic principle of psychology, it
doesnt yet seem widely understood or practiced in the software industry.
is built into many processes in life, especially those by which one attempts to
manipulate the physical world. If I try to thread a needle, for example, I can
tell immediately whether or not I have succeeded. Same with kicking a field goal
or building a wallbut not so with software. We in the software industry
are working with a more or less invisible product, yet this very invisibility
only heightens our need for feedback. We arent going to get feedback implicitly,
so we have to build it explicitly into our processeshence, our need for
Feedback on software projectsmeaningful feedback,
at leastis not easy to come by. Projects often outlive the accuracy of our
memories. Even when our memories are excellent, people leave during the project
and take their memories away with them. So, in order to capture project learnings,
we need to plan, prepare, and practice. And thats what Project Retrospectives:
A Handbook for Team Reviews gives usplans, preparations, and practice.
Retrospectives, of course, are human cooperative processescalling
on qualities that are not typically the engineers strongest. One of the
best features of Norms book is how it speaks to an engineering audience
in engineering terms, teaching us how to transform what we know about software
engineering into social engineering.
Another strong feature is the
books attention to issues that are sometimes considered peripheral to the
retrospective itselfactivities such as selling the idea of retrospectives,
qualifying the potential customer, obtaining and maintaining support, creating
a community, coping with legal issues, thinking in advance about the what and
how of data capture, and even considering such details as what kind of food to
serve during the retrospective, and when.
is a strong book, full of strong features that will make it the classic work in
this area. In my opinion, though, the very strongest feature of the book is its
many well-designed exercisesexercises that will elevate your chance of successwhether
you are a new or experienced facilitator of retrospectives.
As I wrote at
the outset, Ive been looking forward to this book. It was worth the wait.
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Albuquerque, New Mexico