Listen to the Software Process and Measurement Cast 282. In the SPaMCAST 282 we feature our interview with Ben Linders and Luis Gonçalves.  We discussed retrospectives and their great new book Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives – A Toolbox of Retrospective Exercises. Retrospectives power the continuous improvement all projects and organizations need to deliver more value over time.

Luis Gonçalves is an Agile Coach, Co-Author, Speaker and a Blogger. He has been working in the software industry since 2003, being an Agile practitioner since 2007. Luis is the co-author of “Getting Value Out of Agile Retrospectives” and a co-founder of a MeetUp group in Munich called High Performing Teams.

He likes to write and share ideas with the world and this made him passionate blogger. You can follow his blog: People can find Luis on twitter: @lgoncalves1979

Ben Linders is a Senior Consultant in Agile, Lean, Quality and Process Improvement, based in The Netherlands. Co-author of Getting Value out of Agile Retrospectives. As an advisor, coach and trainer he helps organizations by deploying effective software development and management practices. He focuses on continuous improvement, collaboration and communication, and professional development, to deliver business value to customers. Ben is an active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer. He shares his experience in a bilingual blog (Dutch and English) and as an editor for Agile at InfoQ. You can find him on twitter: @BenLinders.

Get in touch with us anytime or leave a comment here on the blog. Help support the SPaMCAST by reviewing and rating it on iTunes. It helps people find the cast. Like us on Facebook while you’re at it.

Next week we will feature our essay on user stories.  A user story is a brief, simple requirement statement from the user perspective. User stories are narratives describing who is interacting with the application; how they are interacting with the application and the benefit they derive from that interaction.

Upcoming Events


I will be attending the International Function Point Users Group conference and workshops in Madrid, Spain on March 27th with workshops on March 25th and 26th.

More information

QAIQuest 2014

I will be facilitating a ½ Day tutorial titled Make Integration and Acceptance Testing Truly Agile. The tutorial will wrestle with the flow of testing in Agile projects and will include lots of practical advice and exercises. Remember that Agile testing is not waterfall done quickly. I will also be around for the conference and look forward to meeting and talking with SPaMCAST readers and listeners.  More confernce information   ALSO I HAVE A DISCOUNT CODE…. Email me at or call 440.668.5717 for the code.


I will be speaking at the StarEast Conference May 4th – 9th in Orlando, Florida.  I will be presenting a talk titled, The Impact of Cognitive Biases on Test and Project Teams. Follow the link for more information on StarEast. ALSO I HAVE A DISCOUNT CODE…. Email me at or call 440.668.5717 for the code.

I look forward to seeing all SPaMCAST readers and listeners at all of these great events!

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Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here. Available in English and Chinese.

Factors For Effective Retrospectives.

Factors For Effective Retrospectives.

Hand Drawn Chart Saturday

Facilitation skills, choice of technique and the tools that are used, in that order, will impact the effectiveness of retrospectives. The degree of team distribution will cause the degree of importance of the attributes to vary. For instance, distributed teams will have to lean on communication tools to a greater extent.

At their heart, all retrospectives are a social exercises. Even in well-honed teams it is an ongoing challenge to keep team member talking and sharing in a manner that will convey information without damaging relationships. As Naomi Karten pointed out in her interview on the Software Process and Measurement Cast, there are a relatively high proportion of introverts in IT who need help in order to be drawn out. The facilitator’s skill at getting people to interact is more important as the degree of team is distribution increases. In distributed teams, the facilitator needs to find ways to make the team’s interactions more personal. For example, making sure everyone talks and that location bias does not set in. An interesting technique I have observed was to pair individuals from different locations as homework for the retrospective. In one example, she asked each pair to collaborate and identify five ideas to improve collaboration, while another time (with different sets of pairs) she asked the groups to do a five minute overview on an upcoming local holiday (ask me about Holi…). The goal was to make sure the locations were talking and that the whole team was exposed to the different cultures on the team which fosters deeper communication.

As we have seen in previous Daily Process Thoughts, different retrospective techniques will evoke different responses from participants. For example, a timeline retrospective will focus on events. A classic list generation-based retrospective will focus on process. Picking the right type of retrospective gives a facilitator the chance at opening up the team. The technique selected for a retrospective is generally a balance between the focus and technique satisfaction (i.e. how many times you have used the technique as over use causes boredom). When coaching long-term projects, I often teach the team a variety of techniques and then let them select the technique that they want to use. Remember to add techniques or remove techniques from the team playbook as the situation warrants.

Every retrospective requires some sort of tool. Tools can be a simple as a white board and markers or as complex as mind-mapping and screen-sharing software. When a team is distributed, screen sharing and teleconferencing/videoconferencing tools are necessities. The combination of technique and level of team distribution will influence tool selection. Likewise, tool availability will influence technique selection. For example, I use a mind mapping and screen sharing when executing a listing retrospective for a distributed team so that each location can see the ideas and participate. If I could not use those tools, I would have to find a different approach. Generally the technique defines the toolset, but that is not always the case. When everyone is in the same room sticky notes are great but when team members are teleconferencing into the retrospective electronic are required.

Facilitation skills, retrospective techniques and tools are all important for an effective retrospective. The technique is driven by needs of the team. The coach/facilitator needs to be aware of the needs of the team. The proper tools facilitate the technique. If they are not available, pick another technique. However once the retrospective begins, facilitation skills are always the most important factor. Even with the best technique and tools, retrospectives are all about the people.

Daily Process Thoughts:  Retrospective Theme Entries:

Retrospectives: A Basic Process Overview

Retrospectives: Retrospectives versus a Classic Post-Mortem, Mindset Differences

Retrospectives: Obstacles

Retrospectives: Listing Techniques

Retrospectives: Non-listing Techniques

Retrospectives: A Social Event

And Agile is . . .

Note this essay was also podcast at:

What is the definition of Agile? Is agile doing things faster? Is agile a philosophy? A set of techniques and methods? Or rather is it some combination of philosophies and techniques. As a leader, these questions are not merely idle thoughts because how you answer these questions will define how work is done in your organization. I would like to propose that agile is the combination of a philosophy and a set to methods and techniques. What it is not, is just an outcome in other words the path is as important as the destination.

Agile is a philosophy, a philosophy that is defined by the Agile Manifesto ( The manifesto at its heart puts concepts of sustainability and people first while at the same time it is not a rejection processes or tools. By definition this puts the needs of classic command and control methods second and in some cases a far distant second. Agile as a philosophy is not a return to a past business philosophy but in its raw form is something different. Something new built on concepts of community and high performing teams.

The concept of self-directed teams reflects a radical rethinking of the implied contract between managers and workers that has developed over the last forty years. How this radical rethink of the workplace contract works in the turbulent economy we are living through is an open question. The self directed team movement embodied by the agile philosophy can only stand if it can provide tangible value beyond “it feels better”. Value being defined as more quality output for less money. The jury is out and only measurement can answer the question.

Agile methods are implemented as a set of techniques and frameworks used to do work. There are many agile techniques including management techniques like scrum masters and standup meetings; engineering techniques such as pair programming and test driven development. Over arching frameworks or methods have names like scrum, xP, crystal and many others. These technique and methods embody agile philosophies that drove the Agile Manifesto (albeit it possible that the methods in fact influenced the development of the agile manifesto and philosophy). Regardless of whether the chicken or egg came first, the methods and techniques used in agile frameworks are impossible to separate from the overall philosophy. Using the techniques without the philosophy removes the internal support structure for the techniques which at best reduces the efficiency. The inseparability of the philosophy and techniques ensures that defining agile as just an outcome misses the mark and is counterproductive. Agile without the philosophy is not agile and will not be a game changing experience.