Creating safety at a first retrospective

A colleague recently asked me for some input on leading a team’s first retrospective:
I am leading a team’s first retrospective soon. From my initial research, it seems many of the participants are “scared to death” (mainly because they do not know what to expect). There is also speculation that it will be a challenge to get those same people to speak up. Any suggestions?
One thing that I’ve found to be helpful in making everyone feel comfortable to talk is doing an icebreaker activity in which everyone speaks. For a team that was new to me and was having its first retrospective, I started with a simple “emotion check-in” (on a post-it, write a word or phrase about how you’re feeling right now). Instead of having them read their own, I had them put them in a hat, pass the hat back around and pull out someone else’s, and read it. That gave them a chance to speak without any real pressure. Studies have shown that when someone speaks once, he or she is more likely to speak again.

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Taking responsibility

Being excellent starts with a nominal commitment to take responsibility for yourself. One area of responsibility is attending meetings, and being on-time. Unfortunately, some people eschew this responsibility, as evidenced by the following IM chat I actually had with someone:

Matt Philip: we’re going to plan a bit tomorrow morning from 9-9:15 — can you make that?
name.redacted: maybe
Matt Philip: Ok, great
name.redacted: call me @ 8:30
Matt Philip: why don’t you set an alarm for yourself?
name.redacted: nope
Matt Philip: I’m not your mom.
name.redacted: nope, but you’re the organizer
Matt Philip: organizer != hand-holder
name.redacted: (organizer != hand-holder) == bad organizer == no attendees
Matt Philip: That’s true, if the attendees are people who can’t take the minimal responsibility for themselves to show up for a meeting without someone holding their hand.
name.redacted: yep

I imagine that, at some point in the not-too-distant past, showing up on-time for meetings was an expected behavior for anyone who planned to hold a job for more than a day.

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CITCON North America 2010

From Paul Julius:

Hey everyone!

I wanted to let you know about CITCON North America in Raleigh Durham on April 16 & 17. If you can’t make it yourself, please do pass along this invitiation to your friends, colleagues, cohorts, guildies, etc. I hope to see everyone again this year at one of the instances. Note that we are doing Singapore this year, too. So that makes 4 CITCONs world wide that you could attend. I’ll give a special prize to anyone that makes all 4 (excluding JTF)!

CITCON, the Continuous Integration and Testing Conference, is an open spaces conference in its 5th year. The topics aren’t decided until the first night of the conference, but past events have proven extraordinarily useful to anyone interested in Continuous Integration and the type of testing that goes with it. Developer-testers, tester-developers, tool creators, and Agile advocates have all gained a lot from attending.

The conference is free to attend! You have to pay $20 to register, but you get that back when you attend the conference.

This year, the North American event will be in Raleigh-Durham at the Sheraton Chapel Hill Hotel. Registration is open, but limited to the first 150 registrants. Sign up now to reserve your spot at this innovative, exciting, education, fun event.

The conference operates as a non-profit, so our advertising budget is basically zero. We can use your help to get the word out. If you know someone that might be interested, please pass this announcement along to them.

Also, if your company or a company you know would be interested in sponsoring CITCON, there are a wide range of sponsorship options.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Paul Julius
Co-chair, CITCON 2010

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What is an “excellentist”?

First, it’s not a word. Not as far as I know, anyway. And it’s not some cross between Edwards Deming and Bill S. Preston, Esq. But I like it because it expresses something of how I want to approach the work I do as an agile QA lead and tester. I’m not a perfectionist, but I am (or at least try to be) an excellentist. That is, I’m not perfect and don’t expect others to be perfect, but I do want to be excellent and work with others who expect the same from themselves, and from me, to create a culture of excellence. It’s not quite Soup Nazi-level, but this exchange hints at the idea:

SOUP NAZI: You are the only one who understands me.

KRAMER: You suffer for your soup.

SOUP NAZI: Yes. That is right.

KRAMER: You demand perfection from yourself, from your soup.

SOUP NAZI: How can I tolerate any less from my customer?

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