Monday, November 28, 2011

Retrospective Dialogue Sheets: feedback & updates 1 of 2

Every couple of months I e-mail everyone who has downloaded one or more of my Dialogue Sheets to get some feedback. Getting feedback is why I make people register to download a Dialogue Sheet - sorry, I know some people don’t like doing this, and I know some people fake their e-mail addresses but unless I do this I get very little feedback.

I’ve blogged about my Retrospective Dialogue Sheets before but I thought this would be a good opportunity to update readers with some feedback and findings. This is the first of two posts on this subject, the second post will examine a few findings in more depth.

First simple facts and comments:
  • 40% of people who download Retrospective Dialogue Sheets do retrospectives rarely or at best every six months.
  • Many who download them and reply to my requests for feedback say “Sorry we haven’t used them” and I guess that many of those who don’t reply haven’t used them either. Given that I expect those who are interested in retrospectives will download, and given that downloaders are measured in hundreds, not thousands, this indicates that actually doing retrospectives is rare.
  • 46% of downloaders do them once a month or more frequently, while 15% of downloaders classify themselves as Retrospective Facilitators and perform any retrospectives.
  • 25% of downloaders are in the USA, 9.5% in the UK, just ahead of Germany (9.09%). Otherwise only India (5.79%) tops 5%. Though Holland, Canada and France all score 4.5%. I don’t find this surprising given the spread of software development internationally and the spread of dialogue sheet publicity.
  • A few people find the sheets too complicated, a few people find them too simple. I had hoped that a variety of sheets would address both ends of the spectrum: the lesson for me is to create some even simpler sheets.
  • A couple of people have reported that they don’t feel their team is open enough to use the sheets. My guess is this will present difficulties for any type of retrospective.
  • A few people say the sheets are too expensive to print: the print on demand services charges about $40 dollars, the expense is in the postage rather than the printing, if you order a lot the price per sheet is a lot lower. (I must find a European print on demand provider.). However 40% of people say that they have a suitable printer, this surprises me a bit, I never expected large printers were so common.
  • To my surprise a couple of people have said there is not enough space to write on the sheets! I will create some new sheets with fewer questions and more space.
  • A few replies say that the teams are now using the sheets regularly, and in some cases they have spread from Agile to non-Agile teams.
As I said, one common response is that downloaders have “not had a chance to use the sheets yet.” On the whole I assumed this was down simply not having a retrospective. However a few correspondents have hinted that their company has a prescribed retrospective process. This worries me, if the retrospective approach is prescribed in such detail I wonder how much else is prescribed and how much opportunity there is to change things.

I’ve also been asked if it is possible to customise the sheets. The short answer is No, because they are PDFs its kind of difficult - although I’m sure you could with the right tools. Still there is no reason why not to create your own - a few correspondents say they are thinking of this. (Anyone thinking of creating their own sheets might find this guide for teachers creating dialogue sheets useful.)

Finally for this entry, I’m also hoping to provide translations of the sheets shortly. I have offers of translations into Spanish, German and Finnish - plus I hope to persuade a friendly Russian to help. Main problem at the moment is getting the raw files out of OmniGraffle into Visio.