The Last Retrospective


The Bustle in a House

The Morning after Death

Is solemnest of industries

Enacted opon Earth –


The Sweeping up the Heart

And putting Love away

We shall not want to use again

Until Eternity.

Emily Dickinson


Thirty odd sticky notes hang on the whiteboard, carefully categorized this time. Written upon in neat, thick pencil strokes, they await inspection, analysis.

The last retrospective didn’t happen. It was canceled at the last minute by the person who was assigned to be the scrum master, because the fixing of incidents in production had priority over the retrospective session. The stickies have been on that whiteboard for two weeks now, unattended. I like to believe they serve as a monument, as a tombstone for our exploits into an Agile way of working. One of these days though, I am going to have to clean up the board.

It would have been the last retrospective anyway because we are returning from an Agile way of working to waterfall software development – which is, euphemistically, being sold as Kanban. We tried Agile for some ten months but it never took hold. On the ‘what went well’ side of the retrospective board there are stickies stating ‘At least we try to keep on smiling’ and ‘Somehow we manage to deliver some work’. On the ‘what could have been better’ side there is an exhaustive to the point of masochistic description of the swamp that we’ve been ploughing through for the last couple of months. The stickies state that we do not work as a team, there is no focus, there are no priorities, it is not clear who does what, there is no clear goal, we are continuously interrupted and there is lack of understanding of quality.

I feel it is okay to move away from Agile. In fact, we (the team) discussed this a couple of weeks ago as a viable option. We decided it would be beneficial to let go of the Agile expectations. I think the main reason for not succeeding at Agile was lack of commitment from management at every bloody step of the way. While the company envisioned to charge into the future the Agile way, middle management just basically ignored that message. There is an abundance of other reasons as well. I like to think that I tried to make Agile work but that the opposition was just overwhelming. In retrospect, I think it was.