The Scrum Guide indicates “The Scrum Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be enacted during the next Sprint.”
During a class which I was teaching this week, one of the learners asked: “Won’t the ideas from a retrospective use up some of the team’s capacity in the next sprint?“.
As usual, it depends.
Here are a few scenarios and I’m sure there are many others.
If an improvement idea requires the team to learn a new skill or to perform a task which they wouldn’t have done otherwise, then yes, it will consume capacity in the next sprint. Teams which aspire to be as transparent as possible will make these types of ideas visible to all stakeholders by explicitly adding them into the sprint backlog. When deciding on whether to implement these ideas, the team should balance the capacity costs against the potential delivery, quality or happiness benefits.
For those ideas which relate to improving behavior or interactions within the team or with the stakeholders supporting the team, there might be no capacity impacts beyond the team figuring out how they will remember to behave in a different manner. If the team was used to working virtually but saw some benefits in face-to-face interactions at least once a week, they could do so without reducing available capacity.
Some suggestions might require work effort from those outside of the team. For example, a dedicated testing environment might be desirable to reduce the impacts of limited access to a shared environment. An external person might provision the environment hence there would be no capacity impacts for the team beyond confirming that the new dedicated environment was setup correctly.
Finally, other suggestions might change the effort required to complete work items. If the team enhances their Definition of Done to include more criteria to improve product quality, this might increase their effort per work item.
Regardless of the nature of the improvements, there is a critical difference between retrospectives and traditional lessons learned practices. With the latter, only a small fraction of what was identified is immediately applicable, whereas with the former, the majority of the vital few ideas identified should get implemented before attention shifts and memories fade.
Thanks, Deepak, for inspiring this week’s article!