Support Agility with Strategic Retrospectives

agile leadership continuous improvement
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By Ryan Fullmer

November 5, 2022

You have probably started to realize that it’s going to take awhile before your organization achieves agility. There are new processes to adopt and practices to mature. And that’s just the start.

Agility requires the right culture, mindset and environment to take root and flourish. The teams can’t do this on their own. As a leader, you need to make ongoing, organizational-level changes to support the new ways of thinking and working.

Continuous Improvement

Organizational Agility is achieved through continuous improvement. It takes a concerted approach to identify cross-team challenges and address the root causes behind them. 

A key to success is establishing an effective process and cadence for organizational improvements. An effective approach is to form an organizational improvement team and conduct quarterly strategic retrospectives.

Organizational Improvement Team

The first step is to form an Organizational Improvement Team. This team will be composed of influential change agents;  leaders, managers, and key stakeholders empowered to implement significant organizational changes. Keep the team small with about 5 to 9 members.

Use an Agile approach to self-organize and deliver organizational improvements. Be incremental and iterative. Deliver targeted improvements and gather feedback to guide the larger changes you are making.  

Strategic Retrospective Meeting

Schedule a strategic retrospective meeting each quarter. Set aside two to three hours to take a strategic look at performance and operations over the past quarter. Invite representatives from the teams and key stakeholders to participate in the meeting.

One of the most important things you can do to have an effective retrospective is to create the right environment. It must be a safe space to be open and honest. The retrospective should be blameless and focused on learning.

During the retrospective, gather data about what worked well and did not work well over the past quarter. Take time to analyze the most impactful challenges and brainstorm potential solutions.

The key deliverable from the strategic retrospectives is organizational improvements. Narrow in on one to three important changes to take in the next quarter.

Implement Organizational Changes

During the quarter, the Organizational Improvement Team works together to implement the changes. It is critical that the team makes time to take action. This is important work. 

Each team member needs to commit time and focus to the improvement team’s work. This may require an audit of the work each person is doing. Look for activities that can be dropped, delegated or done differently to free up time.

Just like the Agile teams in your organization, be transparent. Communicate openly what’s in the improvement team’s backlog and what improvements are being worked on. Regularly demonstrate progress and gather feedback.

Using this approach, you will regularly remove blockers, create efficiencies and improve the flow of value delivery. This results in faster progress towards organizational Agility.

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