Making Agile Retrospectives Impactful – A Visualization Tool by Jeff Campbell

This is a guest post by Jeff Campbell, author of Actionable Agile tools (available on Amazon, and direct from the author at bit.ly/aatbook)

Visualizing Continuous Improvement

I am a big believer in continuous improvement, weather that be in the form of Retrospectives, a Kaizen approach, or something else that helps the team reflect regularly. But for the earlier years of my career as a Scrum Master I found myself frustrated by a lack of improvement despite all this reflection (retrospectives that have no impact…).

Often,what I was seeing was that we talked about the problems the team was facing, and then didn’t follow-through with the actions we agreed to take.

When we tried to change our behavior. We might have succeeded for a day or two and then would forget about it. This isn’t continuous improvement this is just continuous discussion!

We need a good way to make sure we are actually making the change we set out to make!

  • Do you find that you forget to do the items that come out of your retrospectives?
  • Do you find that behaviour changes don’t last?
  • Do you find that you don’t follow up your retrospective items to see if they’ve had the intended impact?

If so, you should try visualizing your continuous improvement.

Continuous Improvement is Work Too!

Agile teams know that visualizing work helps us. Yet for some reason most teams treat their continuous improvement in a completely separate way from their normal work?

This doesn’t make sense, continuous improvement work is how we invest in the future! It can get stalled or blocked like any other work, it can have external dependencies, it can have scope creep. Continuous Improvement work needs to be followed up and reviewed like everything else.

Getting started with visualizing Continuous Improvement work

Getting started with visualising continuous improvement  is simple.

  • Simply add a swimlane to your normal working board called “continuous improvement”.
    • I like to put this as the top swimlane, to make it clear that these things are important.
  • Add the actions from your retrospectives to that swimlane.
  • Talk about these items at your daily standup like everything else on your board.
  • At your retrospective review them and ask questions like:
    • Do we think this has been done?
    • Do we need to keep it up here to remind ourselves?
    • Are we happy with the result and want to make this part of our normal working process?
    • Do we want to modify it and try something different?

There are different types of retrospective output, sometimes the items are much more like tasks and simply need to be done, sometimes they are behaviour changes that people need to practice consistently.

Visualising and mentioning Continuous Improvement items every day helps with all kinds of improvement actions as it calls attention to them and makes them much harder to forget.

Here are examples of this done digitally and on a physical board:


The physical board with experiments:

How does the tool work for you? Share your thoughts in the comments and leave questions for Jeff!


About Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is the author of Actionable Agile Tools, a book with practical tools and practices to help you amplify your impact as a coach and Scrum Master

Jeff is an Agile Coach who considers the discovery of Agile and Lean to be one of the most defining moments of his life and considers helping others to improve their working life not to simply be a job, but a social responsibility. As an Agile Coach, he has worked with driving Agile transformations in organizations both small and large.

Jeff is also involved in the Agile community and is one of the founding members of Gothenburg Sweden’s largest agile community at 1500+ members , and he also organizes the yearly conference www.brewingagile.org.

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