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Appreciations and Retrospectives

One of the key aspects to being a successful Agile Samurai is the Retrospective Meeting.  The Retrospective Meeting is a specific and deliberate time during the development process for the team learn what is going well and what is not going well.  An Agile team is constantly learning throughout the development process.  But a Retrospective Meeting is specifically intended to collect the learning from the previous sprint so it can be applied to the next sprint.

For a better understanding about retrospectives I would highly recommend Agile Retrospectives Making Good Teams Great.  

Appreciations

This article is about including appreciations as part of the retrospective.  The first thing to do is define appreciation.  From the Merriam Webster dictionary:

: a feeling of being grateful for something

: an ability to understand the worth, quality, or importance of something : an ability to appreciate something

: full awareness or understanding of something

In order for someone to appreciate something they need to be grateful, understand the worth, quality, or importance of something and a deep awareness of something.  Appreciations are specific not general.

On my teams we do appreciations and they take the form of:

I (person giving the appreciation) appreciate (specific person) for doing {specific action} because {what did that person's action do to help you out}.

Some examples of appreciations that I have received:

I appreciate David for keeping the project moving forward and working closely with the vendors.

I appreciate you (David) for bringing a positive attitude & outlook everywhere you go.

Some examples of things that are nice to say but are not appreciations:

I appreciate the team for working hard this last sprint.

I appreciate Joe for working hard this last sprint.

Why do Appreciations

At some point every project is going to have a hard or series of hard sprints.  For whatever reason things are going to go wrong and the team's morale is going to drop.  By documenting appreciations we acknowledge specific actions people are taking to help us (me) overcome an obstacle.  Also when an individual isn't sure they are valued on the team, if they have received appreciations in the past they can go back and look at those appreciations as a reminder that in fact they are valued.

Doing appreciations helps to build team connectedness and cohesion.  People who are appreciated by the people they work with day to day are more likely to give their best, even when things are not going well.

End of a Release Appreciations

At the end of a release give every member of the team a 4x6 card, colored are nice, and have them write their name at the top of the card.  Then have each person pass their card to the person to their right.  Each person can write a specific or set of specific appreciations for the person whose card they just got.  When a person finishes writing on the card, they pass it to the right and keep doing this until their card comes back.

Later this card can be a reminder about what the team appreciated about each member on the next release or even years down the road.

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