Monthly Archives: September 2017

A fractal Cube

Our Team Doesn’t Need to Retro

TL; DR

Sometimes as a team becomes successful, and they have had very successful retrospectives, they stop getting value from those retrospectives. Something must change for the team, in its new state, to gain more value from this exercise. I suggest more retrospectives focused on smaller things.

Pain of Stopping Retrospectives

I have been part of a team that stopped seeing value from retrospectives. In fact, I have been part of many teams that found themselves in this situation for different reasons. In the past, those teams just stopped doing retrospectives until we realized things were very out of whack.

Then, as we scampered, and we flustered, and we struggled, we often found ourselves failing to pick up the pieces neatly. The few times we could recover was after months of struggling, the other times… Well I no longer work at those places.

Stopping retrospectives has consequences. Continuing retrospectives that are unfruitful also has consequences. A process that becomes tedious, and without any gratification, also becomes soul sucking.

This starts to feel like a “no win” scenario.

Increased Frequency, a Story

The team I am currently on hit this wall about two months ago. We did something very different. We increased our retrospective interval to once a day. The world seemed to change overnight. The trust and communication we had been building up to become successful and now started to pay off in large quantities. The daily retrospective allowed us to address issues and wins, as they were more fresh, meaning more of them were addressed and captured into our working agreements.

These new insights were on smaller things, but these smaller things made for bigger improvements. It was amazing, these retros were also shorter – about half the time. I felt energized and we are even more successful for it.

A couple of weeks ago, we tried another experiment, we turned up the frequency again. Now we hold a retrospective every time emotions run even slightly higher than normal. Some days we only have a single retrospective; other days we will have five. We always have our end of day retro (more on this in another post), however we let emotions and insights guide us now.

Advantages of On Demand Retros

These retrospectives are only about 10 minutes at the longest as they now focus on a single insight and outcome. By acting on focused events we have started to notice patterns that were subtle enough to be missed when we bundled everything into a single retrospective. We are becoming even more successful and our team is happy.

That is not to say it is easy. It takes work and trust to have retrospectives at this kind of interval. The payoffs are well worth it. The mini on the spot retros are some of the most effective I have ever had. We try all kinds of experiments now. Some last an hour, others a few weeks, but all are freer to try radically different approaches.

Conclusion

When your team is successful and safe, your old retrospectives may stagnate. They may have addressed all the larger and most visible issues, and you need a tool to help address the smaller, and larger impacting issues. We found that tool to be increased retrospective frequency.

Smaller, more frequent #retrospectives help when retros start seeming like they have no value. #Agile Click To Tweet

Functcon

TL; DR

We believe that Functional Programming (FP) is going to be, and is currently, a disruptive force in mainstream programming. We want to help shape the community around that force to improve the larger software community. We will do this by building an open and safe community where newcomers and veterans can explore FP- their love of it, and how to use it to build awesome software. If you believe in this please sign up on the mailing list at www.functcon.com.

@Functcon is a #FunctionalProgramming #Conference built around a community of #safety. Click To Tweet

Our Value Statements

To promote a culture of success and safety to a growing community of functional programmers, we believe the following things:

  • Functional Programming is disruptive and will continue to be so.
  • Psychological safety is the most important thing to build a successful community.
  • Excellence in programming makes changing code safe.
  • Processes of continual improvement are necessary to achieve excellence.

Functional Disruption

Kate, my wife, and I believe very much that Functional Programming is a disruptive force in the programming industry. This old technology is seeing increasing attention as we are needing different approaches to solve today’s problems.

The simplest computers are gaining more cores and an application’s ability to use those cores determine its success. Not to mention the kinds of thoughts needed to solve the problem of analyzing the increasing mountains of data we are accumulating by the minute. These problems are a couple of examples of problems that have been difficult to solve using Object Oriented Programming (OOP) or Procedural Programming.

We see it as every mainstream OOP language starts to gain FP language constructs.  FP is appearing increasingly in podcasts. Functional Programming conferences are starting to appear and be successful with multiple hundreds of attendees.

We do not know if it will ever displace OOP, but we believe it will become as important. This means that to prepare for the future the industry will need people training in this skill set right now. The Dark Matter Developers are currently not learning this skill. You can see this by looking for accredited courses. Companies are not paying for accreditations in FP.

Dark Matter Developers are the strong majority of developers out there. That means there is currently a building skill deficit. As this skill becomes more in demand the culture surrounding that skill will become in demand. As a community, we can build a culture of success and safety.

Psychological Safety

Psychological Safety was defined by Amy Edmonson as the shared belief that a team is safe for interpersonal risk. She discovered teams that had this trait were the highest performing teams. Later Google found in their research that one of the most important traits to define a successful team was Psychological Safety.

For Functcon, we want to expand that definition from team to community. We believe by focusing first on Psychological Safety, we will build the most successful community.

Excellence in Programming

Excellence is not a word I like, as I state here. So, let me define what I mean by excellence. Excellence is the application of the most current knowledge about the best techniques and practices with understanding that the most valuable part of a project is its maintenance.

We believe by focusing on the very best of FP with this understanding of maintenance we can grow a valuable community.

Continual Improvement

It is virtually impossible to make something perfect, especially when you are dealing with a complex system. Everything you do is going to involve tradeoffs. Everything you do is going to be relevant to a given context which will move on and change under you.

So, we believe that Functcon needs to be about the continual improvement of the community, the code, functional programming, and itself. This will allow us to adapt and always remain at the top of the game.

Tying it together

If we manage to be the most successful community, with the most valuable practices, and we can adapt… Well nothing will be able to stop us. However, we don’t need to be the best to make an impact. If we even start to approach these things we will make for a better industry. Let’s do it together.

Call to Action

If you like what we are trying to do, please sign up for our mailing list. These names help us attract companies to help pay for the conference. Please tell your friends about us. Our page is www.functcon.com. And, of course, we won’t sell your information. Come hang out with us today!

I joined @Functcon mailing list. #Awesome #FunctionalProgramming #Conference https://functcon.com Click To Tweet