Build a Team Improvement Backlog

Retrospectives are the last thing a team does during a Sprint. There are a wide variety of approaches and formats one can use for Retrospectives, but the one thing all have in common is that the Retrospective must produce tangible results. One extremely effective way I have found to help ensure that the Retrospective meets this vital goal is to build a Team Improvement Backlog using the items the team identifies as action items.

A Team Improvement Backlog is nothing more than a prioritized list of action items the team comes up with during its Retrospectives. The most common recommendation, and one I heartily endorse, is that the team collectively chooses the top one or two items on the Team Improvement Backlog at or near the end of each Retrospective and then decides how to implement them and how to demonstrate success. Just like user stories, Team Improvement Backlog items need to have acceptance criteria — the all-important definition of done.

There are a couple of nuances that can play into management of the Team Improvement Backlog. In general, items teams add to their improvement backlogs are public in keeping with the agile and Scrum values of openness and transparency. There are occasions, however, when I have recommended that certain items be kept private to the team. Examples include specific team interaction items, particularly when those items address individual behaviors. Retrospectives are sometimes more like the closed locker room meetings sports teams hold when they are experiencing a crisis. Teams typically do not allow reporters or even coaches into the locker room during such meetings simply because what the team members have to say to each other is strictly for their benefit as a team. In my coaching experience, private improvement backlog items are rare, but it’s a handy tool to have in your bag especially when teams are storming.

Keep the Team Improvement Backlog visible in the team room and track progress at each Retrospective at the latest. Individuals who take on improvement items should also be talking about their work and plans during the Daily Scrum.

If you’re not already using a Team Improvement Backlog, add this handy tool to your repertoire and use it to help your teams grow.

All for now….