Continuous Review is used throughout the development process: after any major event, accident, delivery, mission failure or success. Continuous Reviews encourages “blameless reporting” and removes any threatening posture or assigning blame for errors, omissions, and mistakes. The point of Continuous Review is to focus on the ultimate goals of the team: what can we do better next time, what weaknesses do we need to address, what successes can we leverage.
✓ Critical ❑ Helpful ❑ Experimental
Steps to first adopt this practice:
Reviews go by many names: post-mortems, retrospectives, After Action Reviews, or “acting on the system.” You do reviews to improve the work system, the work, and as part of your learning. Get rid of emotionally-ladened, threatening terms such as “errors,” “investigation,” or “failure.” Use more neutral terms such as “accidents” and “analysis.”
After Action Reviews are well defined to encourage on-going learning:
Key is the spirit in which AARs are given. The environment and climate surrounding an AAR must be one in which the soldiers and leaders openly and honestly discuss what actually transpired in sufficient detail and clarity that not only will everyone understand what did and did not occur and why, but most importantly will have a strong desire to seek the opportunity to practice the task again.
TC 25-20 “A Leader’s Guide to After Action Reviews”
TeamSyncs provide a daily opportunity to learn from events such as code reviews, crashed systems, or redesigns due to missing or misunderstood information. Small learnings and adjustments can result in huge benefits when delivering user capabilities.
Other reviews happen periodically. For teams using Timeboxes, the end of the Timebox is a convenient time to hold a review. Teams that have moved to continuous delivery will use third track of the ThreeTrackAttack, Refine, for periodic reviews.
Include everyone in a review who needs to be part of the review. One way to help CreatePsychologicalSafety is to start each review with Norm Kerth’s “Prime Directive”:
Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job he or she could, given what was known at the time, his or her skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand.
TC 25-20 “A Leader’s Guide to After-Action Reviews” 1993
A handy process for reviews can be found in the OODA loop.
Reviews often exclude managers as they “may bias the team discussion”. This removes a source of knowledge and power to do things from the review. Rather than exclude managers, find a way to include them in a joint problem solving session.
Keep a record of reviews and proposed actions. Periodically review the record. What patterns do you notice? What items stand out because they don’t fit the patterns? Do you notice alternating events/actions?
Anti-patterns from the Hall of Shame