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Project Retrospectives: A Handbook for Team Reviews Paperback – 28 Feb 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Dorset House Publishing Co Inc.,U.S. (28 Feb. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0932633447
  • ISBN-13: 978-0932633446
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 14 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 781,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A must read for all of my project managers - the forgotten part of some many projects, the close, but one that allows you to learn so much more from the people you have worked with.

Using the workshops suggested in this book I have seen some fantastic insights in to projects, and they are always fun to do!

Peter Taylor

The lazy project manager: How to be twice as productive and still leave the office early
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Format: Paperback
I'm surprised this is the first review of this excellent book, eight years after it was published. This is an easy to read, charming and wise book showing how you can learn and improve in all sorts of ways by finding time to do these deceptively simple team reviews. Buy it - now.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Excellent guide to improving organizational performance 8 Feb. 2003
By Karl E. Wiegers - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Project Retrospectives" is one of the best written, best edited, most nicely presented, and most useful software books I've ever read. Norm Kerth presents a convincing argument for the value of taking the time to study past projects and learn from them. He then presents a rich tool kit of techniques for helping a project team explore what actually happened, what went well, what caused problems, and what happened that surprised them. Kerth's sensitivity to the complex interpersonal issues surrounding project retrospectives will help any facilitator, participant, or manager get the most out of these important learning activities.
Despite the value of retrospectives, not every project team will find it possible to spend 2 or 3 full days reflecting on its experience. However, the methods described here can be scaled down so that any team can apply them. If a team doesn't take the time to learn how to improve, it shouldn't expect the next project to go any better than the last one. This unique book is a key enabler for any learning organization.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
A book that will remain valuable for decades 4 April 2001
By Charles Ashbacher - Published on
Format: Paperback
Failure is the norm in software development. The majority of projects are not completed, and it is a rare one indeed that comes in under budget. If a substantial project were ever to yield a useful product, be on time and under budget, it may be cause to ask about any pacts that were made. However, failure is a permanent condition only if you do not learn from the mistakes. A project retrospective is a backward look at what happened, what went wrong, why it went wrong and the points of success. The last is also important, because even the most abject failure contains elements of success.
Unfortunately, but understandably, most people fear retrospectives, thinking that they are nothing more than a search for the people to blame for the failure. If properly done, a retrospective can be uplifting, as the people in the development team can learn what went wrong, alter their approach and increase their chances for success in the future.
It takes a deft hand to perform such an act and Norman Kerth has two of them. His advice on how to politic your way through a successful retrospective demonstrates that he understands the egos, stubborness, jealousy, passion, intelligence, and occasional idiocy of development teams. Navigating through this minefield is difficult, but worth it as the potential rewards are immense. In a field where the cost of failure usually takes seven or more digits to describe, reducing the probability of failure the next time is imperative.
The experience and understanding that Kerth puts forward in this book is priceless and should be a roadmap for what to do after every project is considered done. Using this map to mine your experience for the points of success and failure will pay dividends of many different forms. The simple action of having a brokered discussion can prove cathartic to the members of the development team, helping to restore their energy and relieving anxiety about what went wrong.
A wise person once said, "We must learn from our mistakes, otherwise what is the point of making them?" If development teams were to begin having quality retrospectives using Kerth's criteria, then even the most atrocious failure could generate a favorable return on investment. I consider it to be one of the top ten books of the year.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A wise and practical book, destined to be a classic 23 Feb. 2001
By Ellen Gottesdiener - Published on
Format: Paperback
Norm Kerth has given us a wise and practical book on project retrospectives. It is destined to be a classic in our software engineering and project management literature.
If you are curious, courageous, care about yourself and your teammates, and you are interested in personal and professional growth, read this book.
Beginning with his "prime directive", you will learn why and how to conduct project retrospectives. Norm makes a compelling case for the ritual of retrospectives, openly and honestly presenting the opportunities and dangers. There are many engaging features in this book: fables that make a point, a detailed description of an example retrospective, numerous true stories from real retrospectives that grab your interest, cartoons to illustrate the text, and recipes which provide facilitators with the structure, group processes and rationale for conduct successful retrospectives activities.
Who should read this wonderful book? The book's voice addresses the retrospective facilitator ("must" readers) along with anyone else who wants to learn about retrospectives. This audience includes project managers and their managers, along with team members.
Why these readers? Because software project success is all about people, not technology. How we interrelate, use technology, communicate, and are affected by project history impacts our work. And if we don't learn from our successes and mistakes, we can't grow, do better and have our work bring value to our organizations and ourselves. Project retrospectives are an essential tool toward that end. Norm Kerth's book helps us use this wonderful tool.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A very practical "how to" book 14 Nov. 2001
By Randy Rice - Published on
Format: Paperback
Project Retrospectives by Norm Kerth places an entirely new light on how to effectively and safely reflect on a recent project and not only learn from successes and mistakes, but to become a more solid project team for the next project.
The things I liked about the book: First, Project Retrospectives covers the topic completely in a very concise and readable way. You will find everything you need to know in this book in how to get started, how to be or find a facilitator, how to plan the retrospective, how to conduct the sessions - including a generous number of effective exercises, how to sell the concept of retrospectives to management and how to apply the lessons learned in an organization.
Second, I like the way that Kerth dealt openly and honestly with real world issues that surround project activities such as retrospectives that are often seen by management as "extras." Kerth treats this topic with integrity and basically advises that if you can't do the retrospective right, don't do it at all - or at least wait until you can do it right. I never had to try to separate theory from practice as I read the book - it was all practical.
Finally, I enjoyed the clear train of thought throughout the book, along with specific examples and case studies. I never had to wonder where Kerth was going with a thought.
It is time that we as software professionals make a ritual of reflecting on what we do and how effective we have been. In a profession where we try all too often to apply a single solution to many problems, the activity of project retrospectives can be a major force to improve the overall quality of projects. I highly recommend Project Retrospectives to project managers, consultants, QA analysts or anyone else wishing to be an agent of change in their organizations for higher software project quality.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Enlightening and comprehensive 6 Nov. 2001
By Dragos Manolescu - Published on
Format: Paperback
Anybody thinking seriously about management should work on introducing retrospectives in their organizations. Without a retrospective, a large body of knowledge in which the organization has already invested throughout the project goes down the drain. Project Retrospectives covers the background material you need to know to understand the mechanics, provides a comprehensive set of exercises for leading a retrospective or a postmortem, and tells you how to become a skilled facilitator.
The first part of the book explains the need for ritual, how to tailor a retrospective to various situations, how to make a business case for having a retrospective, and how prepare for it. The case study Norm presents in the second chapter (Anatomy of a Retrospective) provides a holistic picture of the things to follow. The third and fourth chapters tell you how to tailor retrospectives to particular projects (Engineering a Retrospective: Making Choices) and how to talk groups who are interested in improving their processes into having a retrospective (Selling a Retrospective). These are important topics which determine if the people will be given the opportunity to learn from their own experience, and how to focus on the things that will make the retrospective effective. Chapter 5 (Preparing for a Retrospective) covers the groundwork required to have the facts and information for the retrospective, from initiating contact with the managers to arriving at the site. Finally, Chapter 6 discusses a wide array of exercises for the retrospective. Norm presents each exercise in a way that makes it easy to decide whether it is appropriate for a particular project. The pattern includes (among others): Purpose, When to use, Duration, Procedure, Background and theory, and References for further reading.
The second part of the book discusses postmortems, a special case of retrospectives. Postmortems correspond to failed projects. In Chapter 7 (Leading a Postmortem) Norm explains the differences between postmortems and retrospectives, and how to transform the failed-project experience into a learning opportunity. Chapter 8 (Postmortem Exercises) provides exercises designed to handle various circumstances typical of failed projects. In Chapter 9 (On Becoming a Skilled Retrospective Facilitator) Norm shares six lessons learned "through the school of hard knocks," and discusses several procedures that good facilitators should keep in their back pocket. Finally, Chapter 10 (After the Retrospective) explains what to do with the information that surfaces during the retrospective.
Norm has sprinkled the entire book with True Stories. They complement nicely the material and provide additional insight into how retrospectives work and what you should expect. I've also enjoyed the annotated bibliography at the end of each chapter; without Norm's summary the chances of my reading Sharon Loeschen's "The Magic of Satir" were slim. Finally, the book's illustrations are funny and to the point.
I've used Norm Kerth's Project Retrospectives in my Software Project Management class. My students have learned important lessons from it. I trust that once they become managers, they will keep the learning process going through wrapping up their projects with retrospectives.
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