Making Retrospective Changes Stick


I established a "weigh-in day" to help hold myself accountable.

A structure can be anything that creates an opportunity for the team to do what they've committed to do. The team who started pairing created and posted a pairing schedule. A team who wanted to improve their design skills did cooperative reading and set up a weekly lunch to share key ideas.

I am lucky to have a husband who will eat pretty much anything I put on his plate and is willing to grill whatever I bring home from the store. Support can be an "atta boy," or it can be access to books, training, coaching, and experts. The team who wanted to improve their refactoring purchased books and supported each other by walking through their refactorings with each other.

A Counter Balance
That was fine for when I was at home, but I travel. That's where the extra pounds came from in the first place.

As soon as the waitress set the plate in front of me, I'd cut the portions down to size: a serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards. A cup of pasta is about the size of a tennis ball. I didn't have to rely on will power to stop eating; I had a handy heuristic and a specific action to help me stick to my food plan.

When you review retrospective actions, think about what will make it hard to stick to the resolve. Use a Force Field analysis to identify the factors that will propel the change forward and those that will restrain the change. What can the team do to strengthen the drivers, and reduce the retraining factors? See the hand-drawn chart of a force field analysis below:

Most changes aren't no-brainers, even when they sound simple on the surface. Save a little time in your retrospective to identify how the team can use feedback, structure, and support to help them make the change. Consider it insurance for the investment you've made in a retrospective.

About the author

Esther Derby's picture Esther Derby

A regular and Better Software magazine contributor, Esther Derby is one of the rare breed of consultants who blends the technical issues and managerial issues with the people-side issues. She is well known for helping teams grow to new levels of productivity. Project retrospectives and project assessments are two of Esther's key practices that serve as effective tools to start a team's transformation. Recognized as one of the world's leaders in retrospective facilitation, she often receives requests asking her to work with struggling teams. Esther is one of the founders of the AYE Conference. She co-author of Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. She has presented at STAREAST, STARWEST and the Better Software Conference & EXPO. You can read more of Esther's musings on the wonderful world of software at and on her weblog at Her email is

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