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The importance of personal reflection for Agile Scrum teams and performance improvement


When you're working in an agile scrum team the focus is so much on "team", "sprint" and "outcomes" that individuals often fail to recognise the importance of personal reflection to drive continuous improvement. For those unfamiliar with the term "continuous improvement", it is an ideal state for organisations, teams and individuals; where there is a process that encourages and rewards its stakeholders to reflect, challenge and improve themselves in a structured and positive way. This is the underlining principle of the sprint retrospective, even if it's not always stated as such.

 

 

It's important to recognise that reflection is a critical part of personal and professional development. Within the study of leadership, reflection forms a key part of the "action-observation-reflect model", also referred to as the AOR model. Below you can visualise the concept using the figure here;

 

 

Reviewing this model, you can see that our experience grows naturally as we execute actions, observe the results and impacts and then reflect on the outcomes. It is within this context we are best able to answer the questions asked during our sprint and projects retrospectives;

  • What went well? What were our wins? (What did we do well?)
  • What could have been done better? Possible areas of improvement? (What could/should we have done better?)
  • Any actionable changes that should be made next sprint? (What actions should we take to improve?)

The same principle holds true for personal development, investing time to act-observe-reflect will make the most of the experiences you have that can not only be applied to yourself but your team. This is the crux of how personal reflection can contribute significantly to personal and team development and therefore performance improvements.

Still not convinced? Consider these outcomes from reflection;

  • First, and most obviously, you will learn and develop your own knowledge and skills, that leads to better work outputs and results
  • Second, you will be able to contribute higher quality input and feedback to your sprint retrospectives which will generate more thorough and collaborative discussions with your team, resulting in better team dynamics and sharing of knowledge across the group
  • Third, this type of reflection can be encouraged, and I would suggest is contagious, in a team. Where it becomes part of your group norms the previous two factors improve continuously as you challenge each other (constructively) to grow and develop further

Within the context of Agile Scrum, it's easy to lose sight of the individual, and for individuals to lack responsibility for their own personal reflection. This behaviour should be encouraged and allowed for in your planning sessions. Further, give your teams the tools to capture these reflections quickly and easily to promote better discussion and communications.

This is one of the great features of Online Scrums in that feedback can be captured at any time throughout the sprint, but also in a method that encourages sharing and open discussion.

Personally, after an important meeting or discussion that impacts on the sprint I will take time for a coffee at my local coffee shop. Often this is done alone with my phone open to Online Scrums and reflect, noting anything that is considered a win, a potential area of improvement, or an actionable change for the next sprint.

How do you reflect personally and within your team? Share your experiences with us!

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