Improve Your Sprint Retrospectives by Reducing Your Cognitive Biases

Have you ever walked out of a retrospective thinking – ‘That’s one hour of my life I’ve just lost that I’m never getting back’?

Most agile teams dutifully conduct a retrospective at the end of each sprint. And most teams fail to identify, let alone act upon, important lessons that are readily available at the time of the sprint retrospective. A major factor preventing effective retrospectives are a series of cognitive biases that inhibit our ability to learn from past events.

In this tutorial we start by taking you through the journey of an Agile Scrum team in the insurance sector, who identified a number of challenges in their retrospective process. We list the major challenges the team identified, how the team linked those challenges to specific cognitive biases, and how we developed a series of training sessions and workshops to help overcome each of those challenges. We talk about what worked, what didn’t work, and what caught us by surprise. Also, we talk about what is yet to do, what we would do differently next time, and how we engaged with the business to help them evaluate the engagement a success from their point of view.We then take you deeper into the subject of cognitive biases, using some of the workshop training sessions we developed, to allow you to understand your own vulnerability to some of the biases prevalent in sprint retrospectives.

The biases we examine are:

  • Hindsight bias
  • Survivorship bias
  • Memory failures and distortions

We then take you through a number of mitigation and de-biasing approaches, thus helping you to be better prepared to address some of the cognitive issues you may face in your own retrospectives.

  • Speaker

  • Andrew Brown - Something else in testing, SQS, UK

    Dr Andrew Brown is a principal technical consultant at SQS. Recently, he has developed an independent line of research into understanding why we humans make the mistakes that lead to software defects. This research has produced a new approach to defect reduction, several papers and a revamp of training and induction at SQS.

    He has 25 years’ experience in the software industry. Previous roles include Head of QA at HMV, Head of QA at a financial software house and a test manager in Japan.

    He holds a degree in Physics and Maths, an MBA from Warwick Business School and a doctorate from Imperial College.