Retrospectives Case Study: Learning to Become Great (XP Example)

Learn about the notions of project chartering and retrospectives from an XP case study.

Let’s discuss a case-study by Joshua KerievskyAgile expert and CEO of Industrial Logic (an agile consultancy). and Diana LarsenExpert, consultant and author of multiple books on Agile.

The team that became great didn’t start off great—it learned how to produce extraordinary results.
Peter SengeSystems scientist and senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management

Most of the large XPExtreme Programming groups we’ve coached didn’t start off great. They became great over successive iterations by learning how to improve. While XP’s practices help individuals, pairs and teams learn to improve, the two practices that stand out the most in their ability to help teams and whole organizations produce extraordinary results are project charteringThe term project chartering means that the project team and the management develop a shared understanding (a jointly defined charta), which defines what has to be done, how has it to be done, when will it be done, who will do it, and what kind of objectives will be reached with it. and project retrospectives.

Project chartering

Project chartering helps project communities answer questions like:

  • Is the idea for the project worthwhile?
  • How does the project further the organization’s vision/mission?
  • How do we know if the project is a success?
  • Who is part of the project community?

Like refactoring, project chartering is an ongoing endeavor. Writing and revising a charter requires a rigorous inquiry into the project’s:

  • Vision and mission
  • Project community
  • Values (What are the community’s five most important values?)
  • Committed resources
  • Management tests (a measure of internal and external success)
  • Boundaries and limits
  • Working agreements

Project chartering does not take the place of release and iteration planning. Rather, it provides direction for those adaptive planning activities. Project communities that learn to practice successful project chartering often obtain professional help with this practice since this kind of highly collaborative and adaptive chartering differs greatly from traditional project chartering.

Management tests are a key part of project chartering. These tests complement an XP project’s unit tests and story testsA story test is another term for an acceptance test. by adding a test layer around the project itself. While unit tests assert that small units of code meet programmer expectations and story tests assert that system features meet customer expectations, management tests assert that organizational returns on investment meet management expectations.

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