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Skipping Retrospectives: It's Okay Sometimes


If you’re on an agile team, you undoubtedly participate in regularly scheduled retrospectives (or retros). Scrum™ practices teach us to have one of these ceremonies after each sprint. I like the agile manifesto’s take on this better. It states that we will “regularly” reflect on our work for purposes of improvement.


A lot of thought went into the 12 agile principles. It should be clear to even the casual observer that the progenitors went out of their way to avoid being prescriptive. Scrum™ changed all that by being very prescriptive. It’s understandable that we would gravitate this way. The business community has been steeped in the idea of “best practices” for so long that it seems like an obvious choice.


The best agile journeys would beg to differ. “Best practices” are a misnomer. Really, they are just “standard practices.” By definition, they cannot be the “best” if they become what everyone else is doing. Actual best practices require finding what works best in your unique situation and continually pushing to do better. Real best practices can’t stay the same for too long or they become standard.


Best practices always start by asking “why.” “Why are we having this retro now?” Anyone who has been practicing Scrum™ long enough has experienced the occasional bad retro. Chances are, you could have guessed it wouldn’t go well by the situation at the time. But, it was on the calendar and so the team dutifully held the ceremony.


I would encourage you to skip retros sometimes. Maybe it’s crunch time. Maybe multiple people are out that day. Maybe nothing very interesting happened in that particular sprint. Whatever the reason, great teams don’t do anything mechanically. If a practice isn’t serving its purpose, stop it, change it, do less of it, but please don’t just do it anyway. That’s not agility.


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