The Retrospective @ Lean Agile Manchester

At the May meet-up of Lean Agile Manchester we held a retrospective which served at least two purposes:

  • Practice what we preach – that is, we need to constantly analyse and adapt how we run the group to make it a better experience for members
  • Give attendees hands on experience of participating in a retrospective who may not have previously taken part in one.

We kicked the night off with the usual sponsor slots. The first sponsor (Redeye) shared a short Agile experience which set the precedent for proceeding sponsors with each one giving a small nugget of insight or experience instead of the usual “Hi, we’re X and we’re hiring!”.

The attendees were briefed as to what we were looking to get out of the session. Here’s the list:

  • What do you want from the group, i.e. learning, networking, etc?
  • What specific topics do you want to cover?
  • What level should the group pitch at – novice, competent, advanced?
  • What format should the meetup follow? Single track, multiple tracks?
  • Are there any specific speakers you want to see?
  • Do you prefer talks/presentations, workshops, hands-on, etc?
  • What works well?
  • What could we improve?

The attendees then split into three separate groups and each huddled around their own whiteboards, armed with post-it notes and sharpies.

Each group used a different approach to the retrospective and spent the best part of an hour dumping down ideas and discussing them. All three groups then came back together again and we did a tour of each whiteboard with volunteer from each group talking the wider group through their findings.

I’ve captured the raw output from each group below at the bottom of this post.

In the ensuing discussions I captured a number of improvements that we’ll be looking to introduce at future meet-ups:

  • Name tags – this will be done via the “write your own” method. We’ll have sheets of blank name tags for attendees to complete upon arrival. Useful information is, name, job title, and anything specific you want to learn.
  • Recommend reading information radiator (IR) – attendees drop the book title, blog, author, etc on a post-it note and stick it on the IR. We’ll bring this out at each meet-up so that it grows as a useful resource throughout the year. Attendees are welcome to take photos of the IR to enable them to take the info away with them.
  • Lean Agile Surgery – this will take on the form of an IR where by key issues or problems people are facing that they want to discuss are written on a post-it note. Other attendees then dot vote on these suggestions. The winning suggestion is then discussed at the surgery slot.
  • Retrospective each meet-up – at each meet-up we’ll run a mini-retro on how the evening went. This will allow us to feedback to speakers where applicable.
  • Sponsor slots become lightning talks – at all future meet-ups, if sponsors want to use their speaking slot they’ll be required to use it to share an Agile / Lean experience or interesting factoid.

These improvements have helped us to shape the agenda for each meet-up. We’ll experiment with the following structure:

  • Registration, food, networking
  • Lightning talks 3 x 5 mins each
  • Main event
  • Lean Agile Surgery
  • Retrospective
  • Networking
  • Tear down

Raw Output from the night

Group 1


Works Well

  • More open space sessions
  • Moved away from Madlab
  • Variety – Industries, styles, ideas
  • Lightning talks
  • Lots of interesting topics
  • Talks
  • Diversity of topics covered
  • Few obvious vendor pitch talks
  • Breakout sessions
  • Workshops


  • Top 3 actions for successful agile
  • Be nice to know who everyone is & why they are here (for shy people)
  • Catastrophically poor gender balance – to be fixed
  • Have a wider range & more healthy food
  • Fun
  • Top 3 hot to recognise a failing process
  • Can we identify tribes at the beginning of each session
  • Bring in speakers from other industries – not IT
  • Where Lean Agile touches on other areas of the org
  • Widening the audience beyond dev
  • Exposure to other peoples experiences & failures
  • Real world stories
  • More in-depth case studies
  • Workshops of Agile activities…structure, style
  • Like the idea of splitting into different stream
  • Have more sessions where the attendees are active
  • Happiness door
  • Jurgen Appelo #workout
  • How would you… sessions
  • Cover elements of Scrum – standups, planning, review, retrospectives
  • Troubleshooting session
  • Interactive round table surgery
  • Retro at the end of the meet-up
  • Being playful getting involved
  • Give real world stories from vendors
  • I can take something back to the office and apply it
  • Bring a female colleague to the meet-up
  • Who’s the audience
  • Name badge & job title

Group 2



  • Too many recruiters
  • Too specialist at times – start basic / generalist
  • Organisations due to present failing to attend meets
  • Keeping things fresh
  • Context – novice guide
  • I’m new and I’m lost – some basics?


  • Agile project case studies
  • New technology knowledge sharing
  • Networking & Learning from other people
  • Multi agency Agile
  • Tooling – what do people use?
  • Do boundaries exist?
  • Case study – how to move from Waterfall to Scrum
  • Working examples
  • Resources on Agile from experienced professionals shared on website
  • Any local companies that would welcome visitors?
  • How to operate cross site / internationally
  • Learning new techniques
  • Creative in Agile
  • Enterprise Agile
  • Interactive activities


  • External speakers – like “does this fizz good”
  • Learning how other companies operate / overcome waterfall
  • XP Agile coaching (team coaching)
  • Ian Carroll website excellent
  • Meeting people
  • Relaxed atmosphere
  • Beer
  • Sushi
  • Central location
  • Ideas
  • New venue – excellent
  • Experienced people to evangelise

Holding Back

  • Could do more networking outside of meetups
  • Followups
  • Estimating for Agile projects in a waterfall world
  • Lean – what is it?
  • Diversity
  • Don’t use sharpies on white boards!

Group 3


What do we want

  • Become more eloquent in business / lean discussion
  • Interface with like minded people
  • Learning! Terminology, success examples
  • Learning something new to take into everyday job
  • Learning
  • Learn fresh approaches to problems
  • Learning to practice efficiently and face the challenges
  • Learning methodology
  • Recommended Reading
  • Learn new things
  • New perspectives
  • Broadening horizons
  • How do people tackle problems that we currently have
  • How to introduce agile techniques to work
  • Learning – how to use Agile @ Work
  • Networking
  • A more educated community
  • Learning techniques from examples
  • Insights from other companies using Agile
  • Learn from the experience of others

Specific Topics

  • Testing in Agile
  • How Testers collaborate within Agile
  • Scrummaster insights
  • Experiences with using Agile with offshore teams
  • #NoEstimates
  • Estimation
  • Agile estimation
  • Planning – story points, planning poker
  • Kanban techniques
  • How to apply to fixed cost project
  • How to balance and manage skills in each team
  • Rules of thumb
  • Agile tools
  • Best practice with software
  • Frameworks – pros & cons
  • Agile @ scale
  • Disciplines of the retrospective (methodologies)
  • How to involve Design / UX / Creative in Agile
  • How to sync design & dev skills
  • Integrating lean into the creative process
  • UX
  • Overcoming blockers (people)
  • Business buy in to Agile
  • How to sell Agile to clients who don’t understand it?
  • Scrum challenges
  • To be an Agile coach or leader successfully
  • Ceremonies?
  • How to keep to the Agile methodology: what to do if team drift off it


  • Open space
  • Varied structure
  • Workshops
  • Lightning talks – short time multiple speakers
  • Multi – beginner / advanced
  • Same start but then split into levels
  • As is currently
  • Multitrack starting at shallow level ending with deepdive
  • Pres then hands-on
  • Q&A
  • Interactive
  • Single with breakouts
  • Varied single track. Easy to jump in


  • Advanced level discussion is good
  • Competent level

1 Comment on "The Retrospective @ Lean Agile Manchester"

  1. Paul Harding | May 24, 2016 at 8:39 am | Reply

    Great summary Ian

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