A retrospective is an opportunity to learn and improve. It is time set aside – outside of day-to-day routine – to reflect on past events and behaviors. In its simplest form you answer 3 questions:

  • What worked well?
  • What didn't work well?
  • What are we going to try to do differently?

Common Pitfalls

  • A retrospective is intended to reveal facts or feelings which have measurable effects on the team’s performance, and to construct ideas for improvement based on these observations. It will not be useful if it devolves into a verbal joust, or a whining session.
  • On the other hand, an effective retrospective requires that each participant feel comfortable speaking up. The facilitator is responsible for creating the conditions of mutual trust; this may require taking into accounts such factors as hierarchical relationships, the presence of a manager for instance may inhibit discussion of performance issues.
  • Being an all-hands meeting, a retrospective comes at a significant cost in person-hours. Poor execution, either from the usual causes of bad meetings (lack of preparation, tardiness, inattention) or from causes specific to this format (lack of trust and safety, taboo topics), will result in the practice being discredited, even though a vast majority of the Agile community views it as valuable.
  • An effective retrospective will normally result in decisions, leading to action items; it’s a mistake to have too few (there is always room for improvement) or too many (it would be impractical to address “all” issues in the next iteration). One or two improvement ideas per iteration retrospective may well be enough.
  • Identical issues coming up at each retrospective, without measurable improvement over time, may signal that the retrospective has become an empty ritual.


It is a self-organizing practice of inner discipline and collective activity which releases the inherent creativity and leadership in people. By inviting people to take responsibility for what they care about, Open Space establishes a marketplace of inquiry, reflection and learning, bringing out the best in both individuals and the whole.


  • Where conflict is holding back the ability to change
  • Where the situation is complex
  • Where there is a high degree of diversity
  • Where there is an urgent need to make speedy decisions
  • Where all stakeholders are needed for good decisions to be made
  • Where you have no preconceived notion of what the outcomes should be


  • Builds energy, commitment and shared leadership
  • Participants accept responsibility for what does or doesn't happen
  • Action plans and recommendations emerge from discussions as appropriate
  • You create a record of the entire proceedings as you go along


  • Whoever comes is the right people
  1. Whoever is attracted to the same conversation are the people who can contribute most to that conversation—because they care. So, they are exactly the ones—for the whole group-- who are capable of initiating action.
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could've
  1. We are all limited by our own pasts and expectations.This principle acknowledges we'll all do our best to focus on NOW-- the present time and place-- and not get bogged down in what could've or should've happened.
  • When it starts is the right time
  1. The creative spirit has its own time, and our task is to make our best contribution and enter the flow of creativity when it starts.
  • When it's over, it's over
  1. Creativity has its own rhythm. So do groups. Just a reminder to pay attention to the flow of creativity -- not the clock. When you think it is over, ask: Is it over? And if it is, go on to the next thing you have passion for. If it’s not, make plans for continuing the conversation.

Communities of Practice (CoP) is defined as an organized group of professional people who share the same interests in resolving an issue, improving skills, and learning from each other’s experiences.

Every company that implements CoPs is expected to rapidly and effectively increase its success compared to their competitors due to its impact such as:

  • Eases up the adaptation stage of newly hired employees since the communities of practice serve as a mentor in understanding their role and most of all, how their work is essential to the company. In addition to that, newly hired employees can obtain a sense of belongingness through the help of communities of practice.
  • Projects with community backing are executed faster because employees have some sort of “buy-in” in the plans. Compared to executives just issuing “orders”, employees don’t feel like they’re just blindly following plans they don’t have any personal involvement.
  • It helps the member of CoPs to think outside of the box in creating additional services and products of the company during a brainstorming session.
  • CoPs help companies recruit and retain talent. You can easily identify who among your employees are competent and can work productively with other employees in a community of practice.
  • CoPs serve as your first line of defense in the company. They can turn weaknesses into strengths for as long as they work together.

Lean Planning is an activity to plan across multiple teams collaborating to deliver a combined solution or system. It is important to note that these Team plans are high level. This means the User Stories are high level with high level estimates. It is common at this stage, a User Story can be large, with the understanding that it will be broken down into smaller Stories via Backlog Refinement, when they get closer to being high priority in the Backlog. The Team plans communicates objectives, alignment with Business and Leadership, understanding of dependencies/risks, and conveys confidence to deliver based on their Goals for that quarter.

A Program Board will be used to capture inter-team dependencies and when Features will be targeted for completion. The Program Board also serves as a great artifact for the Scrum of Scrums to ensure dependencies don’t become blockers and the Features are on track to be delivered.

The identified risks across the teams will be discussed and categories in the ROAM chart. ROAM stands for Resolved, Owned, Accepted, and Mitigated. 

Fishbone Diagram with Pareto analysis helps the team to do root cause discussions on the biggest problems facing the team. It’s a very collaborative, lean approach to prioritizing your top issues, understanding the root causes, and discussing a solution to the real problem.

The Team using the fishbone diagram tool should carry out the steps listed below.

  • Agree on the problem statement (also referred to as the effect). This is written at the mouth of the “fish.” Be as clear and specific as you can about the problem. Beware of defining the problem in terms of a solution (e.g., we need more of something).
  • Agree on the major categories of causes of the problem (written as branches from the main arrow). Major categories often include: equipment or supply factors, environmental factors, rules/policy/procedure factors, and people/staff factors.
  • Brainstorm all the possible causes of the problem. Ask “Why does this happen?” As each idea is given, the facilitator writes the causal factor as a branch from the appropriate category (places it on the fishbone diagram). Causes can be written in several places if they relate to several categories.
  • Again ask “Why does this happen?” about each cause. Write sub-causes branching off the cause branches.
  • Continues to ask “Why?” and generate deeper levels of causes and continue organizing them under related causes or categories. This will help you to identify and then address root causes to prevent future problems.
  • Dot vote on the Whys and then let the tool generate the Pareto chart. Based on the Whys with the most votes, discuss if that is truly the root cause to the original problem.
  • After understanding the root cause, re-state the problem with the possible solution.

Keeping a meeting highly focused and productive is hard. Agenda Driven meetings is a useful format when you know the exact topics that needs to be discussed before going into the meeting.

To help understand realistic timelines for releasing or how many Lean|Agile Teams you need to meet a specific release date, Story Mapping is a successful Agile technique to accomplish this. Each release can be viewed as an “MVP” – Minimum Viable Product. In other words, it’s the most valuable, high priority feature set and defect fixes for the next release, and to gain maximum learning through feedback from stakeholders.

In Story mapping, the Product Manager or Product Owner has an initial Backlog of Epics, Features, and high-level stories. For successful Story Mapping, we recommend to break the meetings down into multiple smaller steps with focused working groups. Here are the steps we recommend:

  • A working session with the Product Owner and Business Analysts to prioritize and layout the Epics and Features.
  • Another working session between the Product Owner and Business Analysts to create the high-level stories for the Features.
  • A working session with the Dev and Test Leads to get T-shirt sizing on the high-level stories.

After you do the above 3 steps, the Team should then have an understanding to the initial size of the backlog, and will be ready to move into the Story Mapping workshop.

The SailBoat format for retrospectives is a good way for the team to think individually, and then collaborate and define solutions for their problems through visualization. This retrospective is quite simple. The islands represent team´s goals/vision. They work every day to achieve these islands. The rocks represent the risks they might encounter towards their vision. The anchor on the SailBoat is everything that is slowing them down on their journey. The clouds and the wind represent everything that is helping them to reach their goal.

Having the picture on the screen, write what the team vision is or what are goals as a team. After that, start a brainstorming session with the team allowing them place their ideas within different areas. Give ten minutes to write their ideas. Afterwards, give 5 minutes to each person to read out loud their ideas.

At this point discuss together with the team how can they continue to practice what was written on the “clouds” area. These are good ideas that help the team, and they need to continue with these ideas.

Then spend some time discussing how can the team mitigate the risks that were identified. Finally, together with the team chose the most important issue that is slowing the team down. If you do not find an agreement within the team about the most important topic that should be tackled, you can use vote dots. In the end, you can define what steps can be done to fix the problem, and you can close the retrospective.

SWOT analysis (or SWOT matrix) is a strategic planning technique used to help a person or organization identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats related to business competition or system delivery. This technique, which operates by peeling back layers of the company is designed for use in the preliminary stages of decision-making processes, and can be used as a tool for evaluation of the strategic position of an organization.SWOT has been described as the tried-and-true tool of strategic analysis. Below is a starting point to having those meaningful conversations.

The Lean Canvas is a useful tool for rapid development and refinement of systems, initiatives, and products in order to make the most impact and generate the most revenue. The Lean Canvas is designed to be flexible and testable, which will assist you in using your most precious resource (time) wisely, unlike moving forward on a static business plan which can result in taking unnecessary risks since the plan is based on untested assumptions.

The Canvas helps you to avoid bias by leading you through a quick process of documenting your ideas and then testing them on a small scale instead wasting time and money pursuing fruitless ideas. With the Canvas, you can learn quickly which problems are most critically in need of solving, to whom those solutions matter most, and which solutions can make the biggest impact with the least investment of your resources.

Once you have your initial roadmap, the first version of your Lean Canvas, you can then work through a process of identifying the most risky aspects of your plan, and whether or not you have correctly identified the solution that brings the largest return for the opportunity cost of bringing it forth.

In order to do this, the Lean Canvas requires you to keep in constant contact with your customers throughout the development process. Although this may seem like an extraordinary outlay of time and effort, you actually only need to make meaningful contact five or so customers to make a difference (although you will also ask them for referrals of other people to talk to). These customers will help you through several stages of testing your assumptions and learning about your customer's goals and the challenges to achieving those goals, and you avoid wasting more resources by pursuing what you think people want instead of what they actually want.

Fill in your canvas quickly; don't spend an endless amount of time but rather record your ideas as they exist so that they can be formally tested and proven or disproven by people other than yourself. Spend no more than 15 minutes or so per canvas, and be concise. Attempt to fit your entire canvas onto one page by distilling your ideas to their essence. Sometimes business plans try to predict the future or at least account for it, but base your canvas on the current state of affairs and what you know right now. If you need to leave a section blank, it's OK; in fact, that blank section can help indicate what's riskiest about your idea and point you toward the hypotheses that you need to test in order to move your product forward. The section "Unfair Advantage" might take some time to figure out and that's OK. The task is to test and change your canvas over time, evolving to reflect the discoveries you have made along the way.

An empathy map is a collaborative tool teams can use to gain a deeper insight into their customers. Much like a user persona, an empathy map can represent a group of users, such as a customer segment. It sums up our learning from engagements with people in the field of design research. An Empathy Map consists of four quadrants. The four quadrants reflect four key traits, which the user demonstrated/possessed during the observation/research stage. The four quadrants refer to what the user: SaidDidThought, and Felt. It’s fairly easy to determine what the user said and did. However, determining what they thought and felt should be based on careful observations and analysis as to how they behaved and responded to certain activities, suggestions, conversations, etc. Doing this virtually, video conferencing should be considered.

There are three steps to get to the end results:

  • Fill out the Empathy Map – Use the Template and setup a virtual working session with your focused audience.
  • Synthesize of NEEDS - This will help you to define your design challenge.
  • Synthesize of Insights - An “Insight” is your remarkable realization that can help you to solve the current design challenge you’re facing.

Identifying operational and development value streams in the large enterprise is not a trivial undertaking. It requires an awareness of the organization’s broader purpose and an explicit understanding of how specific elements of value flow to the customer.

Operational value streams – Contains the steps and the people who deliver end-user value using solutions created by the development value streams

Development value streams – Contains the steps and the people who develop solutions used by operational value streams

These value streams are the primary construct for understanding, organizing, and delivering value. Each value stream is a long-lived series of steps used to create value. A trigger starts the flow of value, and there’s some form of monetization or value delivered at the end. The steps in the middle are the activities used to develop or deliver the value.

Leveraging the Lean Coffee principles and a collaboration environment, your team can brainstorm, discuss, and map the appropriate value streams.

Approximately 60 to 65 percent of the population are visual learners. This means that the mind map, a tool for visual learning, is ideal for a large proportion of people who prefer to collaborate and see things take shape visually, including thoughts and ideas.

Mind mapping is an effective tool for taking notes and for better understanding and learning information.You can use it while studying or you can incorporate it into your professional career. In general, mind mapping is a good alternative way of accumulating knowledge regardless of the area you use it in.

How It Works:

  • Determine the main purpose of your mind map and write it down.
  • Add branches to the main concept. Now that you have determined the main purpose of your mind map, add branches that will outline the most basic subtopics.
  • Explore topics by adding stickies to branches.

The portfolio canvas describes how a portfolio of solutions creates, delivers and captures value for an organization. It also helps define and align the portfolio’s Value Streams and Solutions to the goals of the enterprise.

Evaluate your present portfolio by analysing current and future business contribution (profitability & potential of new ideas) and risk (disruption risk & validation of new ideas). Then, define objectives, allocate resources and design your desired future business model in other words, define value streams for increasing returns / reducing disruption risk and Innovate.

Implement your strategy to transform your portfolio. Collect empirical data points to help you evaluate the success of your transformed portfolio.

A product vision is key to a product’s success because it conveys purpose, the byproduct of which is motivation and productivity, all crucial elements to any product’s success. It is the overarching goal you are aiming for, the reason for creating the product. The statement concisely captures the intention behind the company's products and services and describes the change the users and customers should experience.

However, there is a difference between the product vision and the product and don’t confuse the two.The former is the motivation for developing the product; the latter is a means to achieve the overarching goal. Say that I want to create a computer game that allows children to choose and interact with characters, select different music tracks and worlds, choreograph their own dances, and play together with friends. This might be a nice idea, but it is not the actual vision. An effective product vision goes beyond the product and captures the change the product should instigate. A vision for the game would be “Help children enjoy music and dancing”

A great way to create a shared product vision is to employ a collaborative visioning workshop. Rather than formulating a product vision and then selling it to the key people you create it together. Use the product idea as an input and ask the workshop attendees to capture their motivation for working on the product. Then compare the different visions, look for common ground, and combine the different goals into a new one everybody agrees with.