Yesterday I made a mistake, and yes it happens for me as well sometimes...
I got to emotionally invested in a retrospective that I had just conducted with my new team.
Since I was "the scrum guy" I was asked to explain how I usually do my retrospectives.
So I layed down some basic ground rules.
- I always divide my retrospectives into a couple of phases.
1. What worked less well?
2. What worked well?
3. What can we improve in the next sprint?
- Also every phase is started with ~5 minutes of solitary thinking and writing on post-its
This is because some people are more inclined to taking "the back-seat" and let others do the talking when the others start.
Also I might have some stray thoughts on some matter but when others start to talk about something else it´s easy to forget that line of thought and start thinking about what the others are currently talking about.
Finally it´s a very nice indicator of the importance of something if several people thought about it independently of each other.
- The retrospective is a way for us to improve in the comming sprints
This is not something new, we continously inspect, adapt and improve, and thats one of the basis for having a retrospective.
- It also serves as a "venting point", a place were we can "cleanse ourselfs" or just let of some steam
Sometimes people just needs to talk a bit about the problems/people they´ve encountered during this sprint, but we don´t always need to act upon it.
For me its a very cleansing feeling, a catarsis (greek word meening "cleansing" or "purging"), where I can say what I want in that room and then leave that behind as I walk out the doors
of that meeting room.
- Anything can be said, and if we want some comment or note to stay in the room thats ok, we don´t always have to communicate everything we say.
So the reason why I divide my retrospective into the phases is because it´s easier to focus on the negative stuff at one time and the positive at another time.
Kind of like going into a certain mind-set, the most popular theory about this is the "DeBono:s Six thinking Hats".
As this was a new project and we made some great progress, and since the mission and requirements were really unclear we had a lot of stuff to vent and write down.
Some we chose not to write down, most we wrote down and then we decided upon 2 things to improve for the next sprint.
However since we were "in that mode" and didn´t quite think things through I missed upon one thing.
This project is a central project that covers multiple nodes/departments and we have designated representatives for all of departments, they are supposed to talk for the departments and take
stuff home to discuss with other people.
Since this project is new and has been a bit unclear from the start the representatives haven´t always had time to invest in this.
One of the representative is a colluege of mine that I´ve been working with for some time.
It´s one of the persons that I have the highest respect for.
The reason I have this respect for him is that he is enthusiastic, driven, experienced, lots and lots of technical and testing knowledge, and also thinks a lot like me (the best indicator for a great person ;-) ).
As you might have guessed a person like this has a lot of other commitments at the same time and therefore the attention for this project has slipped a bit.
He is not the only representative where this has happened, and since we felt that this project is important and that we really cn make a difference we wanted to point out this out.
We mentioned that the representatvies from certain nodes were really well suited becuse of the background and experience for this task and that we´d prefer to continue working with them,
but if it was hard to find time and focus for this project perhaps some other person could take the job instead.
We sent our all our feedback out in mail summarising all our findings and went on our business feeling very relaxed after a succesfull retrospective.
However the person I have mentioned above became very upset when he received this feedback in an email and felt very afronted by this public critisism.
He confronted me afterwards and had a talk with some very heated emotions eminating from him and I quickly realised exactly what we had done.
We had confused the role and the individual behind the role.
We felt unconsiouslty that we only critisised the role and not the individual. However anyone can see that that´s not how it is going to be received.
The even stranger thing is that I have on previous scrum teams where I have been a scrum master said that we give positive feedback in emails (preferably CC the persons manager as well).
But negative feedback we should take face-to-face ot avoid confusion and also avoid exposing the person to other people.
I have apoligised to this person and explained the situation to him and he has said that in the future he wants this kind of feedback feedback but delivered in person instead.
Also we have agreed to put this behind us and forget it.
Still ... I feel a bit ashamed since I should have known better, but I got to emotionaly invested in the project and the current team, and didn´t quite think through what and how we
communicated our retorspective findings.
So a lesson to be remembered is: Positive feedback in email (and in person), negative feedback face-to-face.