Retrospectives and Regret

David Carlton mentioned the Retrospective Prime Directive. I think the prime directive is a great idea. A retrospective is not a place to deal with firing of slackers or whatever. If somebody is truly neglecting their job, this problem should be dealt with through other means.

I've found that many developers are defensive about their work, and deny that they've written a bug or made a mistake. They reject constructive criticism, etc. for fear that admitting they've done something wrong will be held against them. This attitude gets in the way of learning and improvement. So, in a retrospective, one of the key values needs to be a sense of personal safety, so that people don't fear being blamed for something. This lets the group focus on improving itself.

I'm not sure that "regret" is the right word. To me, "regret" means "I wish I hadn't done that." It has a very negative connotation. Perhaps "critical self-examination" is more descriptive term, though it's also more verbose. If you had a chance to go back and do it all over again, would you do it differently? If the answer is "yes" then that should be a positive: it means you learned something. Capturing what you've learned and using it to improve yourself and your group is the whole point of a retrospective. If you haven't learned anything, then something is seriously wrong.

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