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Promoting Double Loop Learning in Retrospectives

by Esther Derby, 30 June 2011 | Agile Teams, Scrum

This post is from Insights You Can Use by Esther Derby. Click here to see the original post in full.

“The thinking that got us here isn’t the thinking that’s going to get us where we need to be.”  attributed to Albert Einstein

I have  this niggling concern about retrospectives.

I have no doubt that retrospectives that are too short, don’t result in action / experiment, or fail to delve beneath the surface are a waste of time. (I suspect many retrospectives fall into this category, since many people teach that an entire retrospective consists of Keep/Drop/Add or some variant there of. This is seldom sufficient for deep or creative thinking.)

But what about earnest retrospectives that focus on an area of concern, examine data, analyze underlying issues and result in action?  I worry that some of those fall short, too.  Why?  Because the thinking that got us here isn’t the thinking that will get us where we need to be.

People work out of their existing mental models. When they examine their current actions, they may achieve incremental improvements.  But they may  take a potentially useful new practice and kill it with 1000 compromises, shaping the new practice to fit the old mental model.

This can happen even when people are trying to learn a new way of working. The first OO program I wrote looked remarkably procedural– I was trying to wrap my head around the new paradigm, I hadn’t quite gotten there yet. In a retrospective, if people try to...

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