How the Agile Retrospective activity can benefit all professionals, not just delivery teams

So what is an ‘Agile Retrospective?

Agile is a Culture that was originally created to transform software delivery. Agile is guided by The Agile Manifesto and it’s accompanying 12 Agile Principles. The Retrospective is an iterative ritual originally created as part of the Scrum Delivery process in 1993 by Jeff Sutherland. Since its original structure, the retrospective hasn’t evolved in intention or purpose, but it’s content does change regularly to maintain fresh engagement on self learning. Agile teams utilise the Scrum Retrospective practice to act out and improve on abiding by the afore mentioned principles.

Consider changing from an annual performance review to a shorter and more frequent cycle, at least once a month is a good rhythm to keep. 

Corporations often exercise a performance review once a year as part of a standard HR endorsed meeting or financial incentive program. The premise is that they are designed as a meeting for the manager to communicate to their employee how they are performing, in accordance with the conversation they had last year. While formal submissions must be done – at a minimum – once every year; there are benefits to having retrospective conversations more frequently with your team, your managers or even yourself;

  • mistakes or poor performance can be discussed and resolved close to when the actual event occurred rather than left, forgotten about or not corrected
  • the actions within a review become more comfortable because the frequency gives you more practice
  • the duration becomes shorter as it only needs to focus on the last few weeks
  • the conversation moves from ‘a what have you done and scored assessment’ to a more mentoring/ perform better focus because you have visibility of the score building every month
A performance review can be transformed from drudgery to good value.

went wellHow many performance reviews have you enjoyably benefited from? Not just in the sense of passing the minimum checks to get a bonus but actually gained value that you took away and then put into your job? The majority of satisfaction ratings I’ve gathered are actually determined by the ‘managers communication and socialisation skills’ (as perceived by the recipient) rather than the benefit gained to “perform better”. Interestingly enough the same lack of value occurs for managers who deem the performance reviews a logistical report. Even when they try to inject counsel or suggestion it seems pointless to the reciepient because it’s so far from when the events occurred. If you start observing, discussing and acting on at least one improvement a month you find that the logistical difficulty or poor communication skills aren’t the focus, the work is.

Frequent retrospectives between ranks can soften difficult conversations.

I find it interesting that people can be quite egotistical or power driven when it comes to performance reviews; that is regardless of whether they are the giver or the receiver. In many cases it’s because it’s someone feels they must exert rank to be respected, or because people are actually so afraid of failing they overproject confidence which really presents as arrogance. The heighten responses to incidental and informative feedback are  because of the infrequency at which they occur and the weight of reward based on that infrequent event. When difficult conversations are addressed more frequently a level of comfortably builds up that allows emotions to recede and with training the conversations is simply focusing on the work.

You gain real time visibility of how you are trending over the year, giving you ample opportunity to correct early if do go a bit off track.

needs attentionProfessional athletic teams capture statistics and perform data analysis to identify opportunities to improve – continuously! Without fail the teams will use the information to change their training, their strategy and channel as much improvement into their performance as possible. In fact even amateur and little league teams honour the value of speedy informed data trends. Imagine if they only looked at their statistics once a year? Do you think they would be a winning team? All professionals can use a regular cycle of retrospectives to glean the data they need to analysis opportunity improve, to eliminate mistakes and to continuously learn.


Ten attributes of a good Scrum Master

Attributes of a good scrum master

Being a good scrum master and becoming a great agile leader takes discipline, patience and practice. It’s not a journey to be the master of servants, but rather a journey to master Human Whispering.





  • The willingness to step up and challenge teams to guide them onto the right direction
  • Courage to confront, don’t be afraid to challenge old paradigms or set high benchmarks
  • Scrum master position comes with power and a good scrum master knows when to leverage that power as the quality champion, team protector and ego power flouting
  • They have done the training course, not because that gives them a certification but because it gives them an agreed base for what scrum is, alliance and support
  • The ability to stick to your (scrum process) guns even when the going gets tough
  • Maintains good morale among the team, recognises poor morale and nips it in the but!
  • Creates momentum and has the ability to protect the momentum to be continuously sustained
  • Understand the balancing of when to step in and when to step out
  • Constantly learning and upon to mentoring and feedback
  • Patience for people to not just understand the process but to ‘be agile’

Lean Business in Community Services

“Far out Freddy!! It’s like panic stations around here and there is a feeling of panic in the air about getting stuff done!! I had to write a figgin agenda for a meeting which is a meeting I am only partially involved in and I’m getting grief from both sides of it, my boss and the other on.
Jeezzzz I tell ya this is a figgin mad house with people running around in escalation mode 10”

Dissolving the day to day panic often faced by passionate yet tired staff of community services organisations can seem quite overwhelming.

It doesn’t have to be. The agile principles of Lean Business and establishing a habitual approach to solving problems using the Scrum Empirical process starts with your state of mind.

Calm. Assertive. Essential.

If it’s not essential to achieve today, don’t panic – don‘t even give it attention.
Ask “ what are my top 3 essential achievements today” and that will give you a boundary to be calm and assertive from!

Being calm and rather than ‘reacting’ with panic allows that person to breath, and be that which you want others to be. Try it – let me know the responses you receive.

Assertive not aggressive, not flimsy. Being calm-assertive can be quite a difficult state to achieve for many people. It’s very much like meditation; being able to reach that blissful of nothing takes practice.

An easy way to start ‘practising’ being a calm assertive leader of scrum or your team is to first think of a place when you truely were in this state. What symbolises that place or time? Recreate the symbol to create a positive trigger for re-focusing on your mind to the positive state of being.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Innovation Review

A rare capture of Mark Zuckerberg being interviewed specifically on innovation, being a successful leader, why was Facebook successful compared to others who had the same concept? and what are Zuckerbergs core values? How do they do product management? What about r and d like Googles 20% allocation?

Facebook Logo Represents Innovation Success
This snap-shot into Facebook Company Culture, Values and Principles is a to do list for any up and coming entrepreneur. It is certainly the template for being an Agile company. Mark Zuckerberg talks a lot about what makes Facebook an adaptable, responsive and $50 Billion Company.

Top Ten Success Factors for aspiring innovators:

1. The initial success driver was “the combination of the concept and the execution”.
Mark Zuckerberg surrounded himself with the smartest people he knew in University, and still does today.
2. Be in the right place.
The start-up team moved to Silicon Valley where they could access help “to do simple things like build a data center”.
3. At the right time.
Facebook would not have had the exponential growth last century because the technology and internet trust wasn’t there.
4. For the right people.
Social software for university students adopting new technological toys – Brilliant!
5. Follow your passion.
“we started this because we wanted the world to become more connected, not because we wanted to make a website or to make a company”
6. Know your core values as a CEO and focus the team to achieve based on those values.
7. Making mistakes is OK – build it, test it, iterate.
8. Move fast.
9. Create the leverage to make the most impact
10. Long term focus, optimise for the long term impact.
” Opportunities like this don’t around often so you have a duty to see it through and build it to what it can be.”

Part 1 of Mark Zuckerber on Innovation Interviewed by Business Insider.

Part 2 of Mark Zuckerber on Innovation Interviewed by Business Insider.

Want of the social innovation guru…Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Innovation Review

Carly Fiorina

    Carly Fiorina
    Wow. Wow. Wow
    Stanford University Leadership Series

    This recording was done a while back and would easily be the BEST expression and summary of key traits, behaviours and elements of great leadership- of not only companies but also of humanity.

    You may recall her supporting Robert mCainn’s presidential campaign recently which Obama ended up winning.
    But prior to her recent public office efforts Carly was CEO of Hewlett Packard at the time they merged with campaq. Carly is also now breast cancer survivor Carly will be running for office.

    ” The ONLY woman to lead a top fortune 20 company ”

    Carly was a 1976 Stanford Graduate, then law school drop out who was quite happy being a secretary.

    “Until one day two people saw the possibility of me” … And that is the essence of leadership – see…&…. Cease the possibility.”

    “The thing that dingstinguishs succesful people is what they do with their fear…
    The essence of entrepreneurialship is the ability to take risks, business is about taking risks.”

    There are soo many gems and insights in this 1hr plus podcast. It is incredibly compelling material that makes you sit upstraight and think wow it’s possible to be amazing “against the momentum that works against you”

    If you only listen to one of the Stanford leadership series – this is it!!

    You will gain insight into leadership and the power of change from an elder with vast and profound experience.

    “this is the first centaury in the history of mankind that we can do anything we choose to do. We can…”

Inspiring Entrepreneurs – Mark Zuckeberg

Mark Zuckeberg
Stanford university thought leadership podcast series.
iTunes U

This recording was done in 2006, just a couple of years after facebook launched in 2004. It’s an intresting retrospective podcast; including basic questions – what is the facebook?

At 18mths old the company got 5.5 billion page views surpassing google.

How this all started…

“So umm I did two years at harvard.

During my sophmore year I decided that harvard needed a facebook. It didn’t have one. So I made it. That’s basically how it got started.”

Mark is truely a data geek and an intellectual. He’s personality has had an obvious strong design overthe culture of the company.

There’s quite a bit of discussion about the type of person Mark likes to hire and how important it is to be patient in hiring so the right person becomes and helps to create the right person.

It’s interesting listening to an “archive” presentation of facebook as it’s obviously come along way since it’s inception and the time of this presentation. I enjoyed Mark’s opinion that it’s a utility – a personal directory and not a social network!

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook Innovation has evolved since his Stanford University a better video social entrepeneur innovation review is now available.

Inspiring Entrepreneurs-Joe McCracken

Joe McKracken
Head of business development
Stanford University iTunesU Thought Leaders

“a company that has had great financial and been able to maintain strong support for helping people”

Normally the thought leaders program I includes speakers soley from the IT world and not the medical industry. That certainly doesn’t make the content of the course any less relevent – the business of healthcare and biology has many parrallels when it comes to creative innovation, start-ups, capital raising and being great leaders.

Genentech was voted the #1 place to

Genentech was first established in 1976 and two budding scientist Swanson and cowen pulled 500 bucks to incorporate their company so they could essentially do what “is now a highschool biology experiment” and before they knew it they were part of the race to be the first to make human insulin.

Sound like a couple of geeks in a garage? Absolutely! So don’t be put off the industry this is an inspiring but valueable lessons in company expansion, sustainability, culture and innovation investment.

At some points in the presentation Joe sounds like a Genentech zealot rather than a mentor speaking at Stanford but you know what; if my technology made the impact on humanity that these guys have done, I’d be preaching the love aswell!

So, listen to Joe with an open mind and keep an ear out for the gems in between he’s detailed medical explainations of the products.

Some of the key lessons I took aware from this are;
– provide long term remuneration progression plan to nurture the scientist so they don’t ‘have to move into management
– r&d is a critical component of product design; survival of the company is dependent upon it
– the profit is not competitor nor evil for delivering healthcare as it enables further research and the opportunity to provide product to those who need but can’t afford
– technology, software development are integral components …. It’s not all cool web tools

So not the normal start-up story but an incredible business story of innovation and smart economics that seperates them from the normal pharmaceutical models. Genentech doesn’t have a commercially driven business model- it’s driven by the science …. And the science is where the value is.

That’s not to say they don’t have commercial business models, they certainly do – such as priority focus on customer service to build repeat sales.

Each scientist has 20% time application to work on whatever they want- ahhhh so is that where Google copied it from!!!!

Sounds alot like the great success mentors all say – do what you r passion about, not just chase the dollar.

Inspirining Entrepeneurs – Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman
Stanford University business leaders podcast series.

Reid made a very successful change of career from academic to business entrepeneur as creator and investor in Linkedin and Paypal.

In this podcast he drops some doozy entrepreneur metaphors…
“pick something that is opposite to what everyone is thinking”

“Raising money is only a step to being successful, not sucess itself”

“Get to your failure points as soon as you can, so you can get it out the way”

What is the central test of failure? “I’ve watched people spend years on products that will never work”

Reid talks through he’s strategies and lessons over time…. “software without distribution is worth Zero…. Distribution strategy is essential”

He presents a good story of how they come about to do email payments then paypal.

If you are looking for investors then take the time to listen to Reid about the do’s and don’ts!!!!

…And what is the revenue model for linkedIn

Reid really had an egalitarian point of view on he’s lifes objectives and has managed to be involved in some pretty life changing developments.

How do u achieve something of scale that makes a diferrence to humanity.

The other thing I liked about this was that he debunks the myth that Mckenzie consultants are sure entrepeneurs, and there’s is the only way. he really just gives a buddy entrepeneurs the plane trueth and doesn’t blow sunshine up your ass about how everyone can make it.